Chris Johnson has found a new home, and it’s with the New York Jets.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports it’s a two-year deal. ProFootballTalk says it has "a base value of $8 million, with another $1 million available in incentives based on yardage." I still want to see the guarantee and the structure to have a real sense of it. Johnson was due an $8 million base salary this year with the Titans before they cut him.
He could be great for the Jets. If Johnson plays well there, keep in mind it doesn't mean he would have played well in Nashville.
I see two big questions ahead for him.
- How does he react to what’s likely to be a reduced role? He was THE centerpiece of the Titans' offense for the bulk of his time in Tennessee. Will the Jets be selling him as that or giving him a narrower role and not talking constantly about their desire to give him 20 carries a game? The role is likely to be narrower, and he’s a guy who understandably wants the ball and enjoys NFL stardom. He’s been a good teammate, though not necessarily a great team guy. What direction do things go with that?
- How does he handle the New York press when things don’t go well? Fair or not, a good share of Jets fans will view him as an offensive savior. If he averages 3.9 yards a carry as he did for the Titans last year, if he fails to break an occasional tackle in the backfield, if he suggests the negative issue is with the offensive line or play calling, a giant press corps will be more difficult for him to deal with than our small group in Nashville ever was.
After a relatively conservative first month of free agency, the New York Jets made one of the splashiest moves of the offseason, signing former Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson to a two-year deal worth up to $9 million, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
The base value of the deal is $8 million, and includes another $1 million in incentives, according to league sources. Johnson's deal has a team option for the second year at $4 million, which would have to be picked up in February 2015, a league source told Schefter.
The team took to Twitter on Wednesday to confirm the signing:
- New York Jets (@nyjets) April 16, 2014
"I've always been a big fan of the Jets," Johnson told the team's official website. "There was some thought into this, but just at the end of the day, I was comfortable here. I just felt like it was the right situation."
Released April 4, Johnson generated little interest on the open market. He visited with only one team -- the Jets -- and wrapped that up Tuesday. The team wanted to get him signed before the start of its offseason program next week. No other team was identified as a serious suitor.
"I see this as a team on the rise," Johnson told the team's official website. "This is a winning team. They didn't make the playoffs last year, but I think they were a game out of the playoffs with a rookie quarterback. So I feel like this is a team that can do some good things."
For years, Johnson was one of the sport's elite players. He has rushed for at least 1,000 yards in his each of six seasons, including 2,006 yards in 2009. But declining production, coupled with a large salary, led to his ouster.
The Jets were reportedly one of four teams that inquired about trading for Johnson, but they didn't want to pick up his salary ($8 million) or surrender a draft pick, not when his release was expected.
New York finished sixth in rushing last season and has every running back returning in 2014, yet felt the need to add more speed. Johnson, 28, is one of the fastest backs in the league, although he's coming off a season in which he averaged a career-low 3.9 yards per carry.
Johnson's health is a question. He underwent surgery in late January to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee and resumed running only about a month ago. He said after the season that he first hurt his knee in Week 3. He didn't miss any games and became the fifth player in league history with 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first six seasons. Obviously, the Jets feel confident he will regain his explosiveness.
There's also a question about Johnson's role. He was a workhorse with Tennessee, averaging 290 carries per season, but he likely will have to accept a reduced role as part of a committee approach. The Jets' other veteran backs are Bilal Powell
The offensive line should finish its first go-round by week's end.
That's according to left tackle Michael Roos, who said he likes the way new line coach Bob Bostad is approaching the job.
"There are definitely, in areas, a lot more terminology, a lot more pieces to the puzzle," Roos said. "I think that could be good in a lot of ways if it adds more confusion and more complexity for the defense to deal with. So it's just a matter of us learning a new language. And who doesn't want to learn a new language at 31-years old?"
Scheme-wise, the run game is a lot like what the Titans have used in recent years, it's just completely different language, Roos said.
"Some of the words are the same but they actually mean a completely different thing," Roos said. "Having to put that all together will take a little bit of time."
The pass game features a lot more different pass protections, more rules and "the whole philosophy of the pass game is completely different than what we've done in the past," he said.
"It'll take time getting used to why we are doing things a certain way and how it'll work and with adding the quarterback in who's able to change things up at any time," Roos said.
Adams’ more rabble-rousing days as an NFL owner predated the start of my connection with the team in 1996.
But from then forward, he was not particularly active in league matters and the commissioner could count on his support in matters of importance.
It was my understanding that Adams had an agreement with Tagliabue, that once the league approved the relocation, the commissioner could count on Adams to back him.
Many close to the situation believed there was, at least, a tacit agreement. We’ve wondered if Tommy Smith, heading up ownership since Adams died, would also be subject to it.
Smith, Adams’ son-in-law, took over as the team’s CEO and president shortly after Adams passed away in October 2013.
In a chat with The Wake Up Zone in Nashville Wednesday morning, Smith said there was no such deal.
“That’s not true, that’s not true at all,” Smith said of the idea that Adams had such a deal. “Bud was a very loyal owner as far as the league is concerned. If he had an issue or objected to something, he would make his point known. No, there was none of that.”
Smith is still new at his job. We’re still getting a feel for how he will run the team, though early indications have been positive.
Fans seem encouraged by his purposeful talk of his dedication to reviving a franchise that had gone stale. And while I wouldn’t expect criticism from his employees, many have told me about how the vibe in team headquarters has improved under his leadership.
How he will vote on important league matters remains to be seen.
But to hear him tell it, he won’t automatically align with the commissioner on important matters because of any carry over of any pre-existing deal.
When Shaun Phillips played in Denver, the Broncos paid special attention to Dexter McCluster when they played Kansas City. Phillips offered a review of his new teammate, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.
Nate Washington embraces his role as the old man of the Titans’ receiver group, says Wyatt.
With coaches not allowed on the field with players at this stage, Charlie Whitehurst is serving in that role in some ways, writes Glennon.
Though Chris Johnson was periodically critical about his offensive line, left tackle Michael Roos said there was never a rift. Glennon’s story.
The Titans hired Tre' Stallings as director of player engagement, says Wyatt.
Shaun Phillips’ quest for 100 sacks and the Titans' need for pass pressure mesh nicely, says David Boclair of the Nashville Post.
McCluster is a gadget back, but Ken Whisenhunt can help make him an effective player, says Tom Gower of Total Titans.
Jake Locker can’t drop back yet, but Washington is impressed the quarterback is throwing go routes standing still, says Craig Peters of the team’s website.
Washington said several times his feelings about the team’s direction weren’t any sort of shot at former coach Mike Munchak and the guys on his staff.
And after Tuesday’s morning workout he told the Titans press corps that “at this point, it’s heaven” at the team’s facility.
“This coaching staff, I think, kind of understands what success is going to look like, not to say that the previous didn’t. … I think this is going to be the best position for a lot of the guys on this roster, it’s going to give a lot of guys on this roster the opportunity to go out and be successful and also have fun playing football.
“I’m not going to say that it wasn’t in the past, but I think now the guys understand the stipulations to what it’s going to take to win. They are kind of finding a way to make it fun.”
Washington said he loves the new offense and that it “opens up everything.”
But his time with Whisenhunt in Pittsburgh in 2005 and 2006 didn’t give him a huge head start.
“I felt like I would have a little solid ground knowing what he was trying to get through to us offensively, but he’s definitely evolved,” Washington said. “His playbook has evolved.”
The list ranks teams based on the average annual pay, which pushes NFL clubs down as they have bigger rosters than baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer and cricket.
The Tennessee Titans rank 133rd on this list based on their 2013 salaries, seventh on the NFL.
That’s up 19 spots from their average from 2012 thanks to an influx of free agents last spring.
They paid more to their average player than storied teams like the Steelers, Giants, 49ers, Patriots, Ravens and Cowboys as well as their three opponents in the AFC South -- Houston, Indianapolis and Jacksonville.
His belly is visible. He’s Warmackin.
I don’t know if it’s a new picture, I don’t know if it’s been run through a special “abdominal filter” that touches him up.
But he looks really good.
[UPDATE 4:09 p.m.: I bumped into Warmack on Tuesday afternoon. It's an old picture.]
He’s tweeted in the last couple months about dieting, and a leaner Warmack will gain quickness and should play better in his second year after a so-so rookie season.
He was listed at 326 pounds last year. But with a heavy player, you never know how accurate the number the team uses.
Titans strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson was a guest on The Wake Up Zone in Nashville on Tuesday morning.
The Titans' offseason program started on April 7. Player workouts last nearly two hours, and Warmack is part of a group that gets pulled out for the second half for specific work with Watterson.
“I love him," Watterson said of Warmack. “I would say in the last week and a half I don’t know if that’s reciprocated. Because his workout has changed dramatically. I’ve identified a couple of players who I thought could use some sliming. So they are with the main group for only half the work.”
The second half of the workout for Watterson’s special group on Monday went 50 minutes.
“And the longest period break they had at any time was 10 seconds,” Watterson said.
Sounds a lot like your workout, right?
Johnson spent several hours at the Jets' facility, took a physical and capped the day by attending the New York Knicks-Brooklyn Nets game in Brooklyn. The crowd cheered when his face appeared on the JumboTron.
Johnson, speaking to a small group of reporters at the game, said "everything went well" on his visit. He said he's not ready to make a decision, indicating he has other visits planned.
"I'm just taking it one day at a time, taking my time, and whatever decision I make, it will be the best decision," he said, claiming has no time frame.
Johnson said New York is a "fun city," adding that "of course" the Jets are an attractive team. But he declined to get into specifics.
"You know, I'm just taking it one day at a time, that's all I'm going to say," he said.
Ideally, the Jets would like to get a deal wrapped up by Monday, the start of the offseason program, but fiscally conservative general manager John Idzik won't overpay in a sluggish running-back market.
Mock drafters are still giving the Titans UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr, but Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert is also getting very popular. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean looks through a bunch.
Breaking down the Titans penalties from 2013 with Tom Gower of Total Titans. “If I thought I had enough grounds to make a serious generalization,” Gower writes, “I would hypothesize that the Titans committed 'better' penalties, or at least took greater advantage of the penalties they committed, than did their opponents.”
The Titans were the middle of the pack when it came to what they produced with extra pass-rushers. Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus takes a close look at the league’s results based on the number of pass-rushers teams sent.
The top 50 players in the draft according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com. Johnny Manziel is No. 1.
It's not a big position of need with Delanie Walker on the roster.
"I highly doubt Ebron would be available for the Titans," ESPN.com's resident scout, Matt Williamson said. "But I do think they would love to have him. Still, I am high enough on Walker that tight end wouldn't be my top priority."
Ty Schalter of Bleacher Report did an interesting piece on he likelihood of players panning out based on how they ultimately score in Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value.
Schalter looked at first- and second-round picks over 10 drafts whose players have at least three years of NFL experience.
"Just 14.8 percent of top-pick tight ends go three years without standing out," Schalter writes. "An incredible 81.4 percent of them make a big impact in either their first or second years. Just one tight end in this entire data set, Anthony Fasano, flopped in his first two seasons and blossomed in his third. Generally speaking, if a tight end hasn't become good after two years, he isn't going to."
Recent history bodes well for a top-rated tight end contributing early. How much that plays into the thinking of the team that takes him is something we may never know.
At Pro Football Focus, Khalid Elsayed runs through the franchise's haul of players and puts them into categories largely based on how they scored in PFF’s grading system.
I think he’s mostly on the mark with the seven guys at the top of the list and he gives weight to where a guy was selected as well as his production.
But the 0.0 guys who fit in the “It Could Have Been Worse” tier get largely generous treatment.
No matter how late they were drafted, it’s hard to say the Titans could have done worse than receiver Dominique Edison (two snaps in his one season), safety Nick Schommer (five snaps), safety Robert Johnson (never effective) or quarterback Rusty Smith (who never challenged for the No. 2 job in four seasons).
The Titans hope former Broncos Wesley Woodyard and Shaun Phillips help give them leadership in addition to production, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.
Woodyard said his benching in Denver was a messed-up situation, writes John Glennon of The Tennessean.
Damian Williams’ deal with Miami seems properly proportional to the one Kenny Britt got in St. Louis, says David Boclair of the Nashville Post.
How did the running back class of 2008 with Chris Johnson shake out? Tom Gower of Football Outsiders examines that in a piece looking very thoroughly as that draft.
Ken Whisenhunt was part of an event to fight Duchenne muscular dystrophy, says Craig Peters of the Titans' website.
To which I say: While Whisenhunt has done a lot of work in the early days of his tenure with the Titans, he’s also managed to do a good job of getting out in Nashville and being part of important stuff like this.
I wanted to punish the no shows, but alas, it’s not in my heart not to share.
So here is some of what we discussed:
- Mike Evans as an option at No. 11.
- Drafting in response to the picks made by division opponents.
- Anthony Barr vs. C.J. Mosley.
- Where Ropati Pitoitua fits.
- The status of Colin McCarthy.
- The explosiveness of the Titans' weapons.
- A band you should listen to: The War on Drugs.
- Guest appearances by Rich Gannon and Faith Hill.
Read about all of that and more by clicking three times on this link.