Chris Johnson has a new contract. According to the Tennessean's Jim Wyatt, the Titans and Johnson agreed to four-year, $53.5 million deal with $30 million in guarantees. It took all of training camp and almost the entire preseason, but one of the NFL's best running backs will return to Tennessee's backfield in time for the start of the regular season to do what he does best: take pressure off the offense and put it squarely on opposing defenses.
Last month, Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said that the organization was willing to make Johnson the NFL's highest-paid running back. Johnson wanted more, and the stalemate continued until Thursday.
Wyatt writes that Johnson was scheduled to make $1.065 million in 2011. With an average salary of $13.5 million, his contract not only makes him the NFL's highest paid running back, it also puts him in a category among the game's "elite" players.
Wyatt continues: The highest paid running backs in the league make roughly $9.5 million to $10.5 million per year annually over the first three years of the deal. Minnesota's Adrian Peterson is scheduled to make $10.7 million in the final year of his contract. Last month, the Panthers reached a deal with running back DeAngelo Williams that gave him $21 million in guaranteed money.
Johnson and the Titans met last week but the two sides remained far apart on a new contract. On Wednesday there were reports that there was finally "positive movement for the first time," and, a day later, Johnson has a shiny, new deal. Now the running back will be under contract for the next six years through 2016.
The 24th overall pick in the 2008 draft, Johnson led the NFL in yards rushing the past three seasons. In 2009, he became only the sixth man in NFL history to rush for at least 2,000 yards and ended the year with 2,006 yards.
The Titans, who wrap up the preseason Thursday night at New Orleans, wanted Johnson to at least have a few days of practice with new quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in a revised offense under coordinator Chris Palmer and new head coach Mike Munchak. The only other running back with any NFL carries is Javon Ringer with 59 in his career, and he has been hurt most of the preseason. Rookie Jamie Harper from Clemson started the past two preseason games for Tennessee.