11:32am: The Titans have officially informed Johnson of his release, tweets Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean.
8:54am: ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link) has confirmed what was widely expected: The Titans will cut Chris Johnson today. As we noted earlier this morning, the veteran running back is in Tennessee today and his situation was expected to be resolved in the form of a release rather than a trade.
With $4MM in prorated bonus money remaining on Johnson’s deal, the club will carry that amount in dead money in 2014, unless the 28-year-old is designated as a post-June 1 cut. Even without that June 1 designation, the Titans will create $6MM in 2014 cap savings by clearing Johnson’s exorbitant base salary from their books.
Johnson, who has only missed one game in his six NFL seasons, has compiled at least 1,000 rushing yards in each of those seasons. In 2013, he posted 1,077 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns despite reportedly playing through a torn meniscus. Still, those yards were hard to come by — he graded out as the league’s 42nd-best running back out of 55 qualified players last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Dallas has been mentioned as a potential destination for Johnson, and Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reiterates (via Twitter) that the Jets are also likely to be a primary suitor for the longtime Titan when his release is made official. New York pursued veteran backs like Donald Brown and Maurice Jones-Drew earlier in the free agent period, but came up empty in both instances. Johnson’s asking price may exceed what players like Brown and MJD were seeking, but CJ2K’s upside is arguably higher as well.
So far this offseason, backs have been hard-pressed to sign deals worth more than $3.5MM per year, so it’ll be interesting to see how Johnson does, especially since he’s coming off surgery to repair that meniscus and is hitting the market a few weeks late. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggested earlier today that a contract which pays Johnson $8MM in year one, with an average annual value of $6MM, seems reasonable. But even that kind of offer may not be easy to find, considering how many teams have already addressed their backfields this offseason.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.