Will Titans give Johnson a pay hike?

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:47 AM ET

At a time when the state of Tennessee should be more concerned with things like, oh, I don’t know, basic shelter and living conditions in the wake of severe flooding earlier this month, the plight of Chris Johnson’s playing status has taken over.

Sure a roof over one’s head is kind of important, but in Tennessee apparently it’s secondary to whether the Titans should forgo their policy of making its players actually honour their contracts or cave in to Johnson’s wishes to make him the highest paid offensive player in the game today.

Strictly on numbers, it’s hard to argue he doesn’t deserve a pay bump, although the highest paid offensive player after one great year might be a tad expectant.

Johnson rushed for an astounding 2006 yards last season and because he’s in the midst of a 5-year rookie deal, he’s due to make $550,000 this coming season.

Fair? Probably not. But his salary was dictated by his draft position, just like every other rookie drafted into the NFL.

Will he get a raise on his second contract? Assuming he doesn’t suffer a crippling injury, definitely.

But there’s the rub. The nature of his position not only means a shorter career but increased risk for serious injury.

“You can sit here and say, ‘It’s not right, he has a contract,’ ” NFL analyst Cris Collinsworth said recently. “But he also realizes, especially as a running back, there are only so many carries you get. If he goes out and blows out his knee next year the Titans aren’t going to go back and say, ‘You know what? Because you were such a good guy, and you went ahead and played, we’re going to give you this $100 million contract.’ That’s not how it works either.

“I don’t blame him. It is just a cold, ruthless business. … You have to try and force your hand in negotiations with any leverage you have. It doesn’t surprise me and I think the Titans ultimately will pay him.”

Agreed. The Titans will eventually pay him but we don’t think it happens this year.

Playing an uncapped season with a new collective bargaining agreement unfinished, doesn’t play into Johnson’s hands. The Titans cannot reward him with more than a 30% raise on last year’s base salary as per league rules so if they’re going to get up into that $10-12-million bracket, the bulk of it is going to have to come in guaranteed money.

And that’s unlikely to happen.

Johnson does have some leverage. He could sit out the entire year but at the age of 25 and in the prime of his career, there is risk in that as well. Even if he returns with an improved contract, does he return the same player he was before taking a year off?

Johnson does sound determined to see this through.

This was from Johnson’s twitter account earlier this week. Please note, he is writing in Twitterese — or is it Twenglish? Anyway, if you’re having trouble, ask your kid to translate.

“Ppl don’t understand ths is my life and my body so I know wht I deserve, I wnt a super bowl but when u don’t wnt 2 do wht it takes 2 get 1 its not gonna happen.”

So far Johnson has missed six voluntary OTA’s. It’s not a real problem until Johnson starts missing the mandatory off-season workouts. Then the Titans fans can start worrying for real.

Roider on roider:

Former Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski is in the news quite a bit lately, and while we agree with the gist of what Romanowski says about Brian Cushing it’s a bit much considering who it’s coming from. “Now, as far as Brian Cushing, here’s the deal: The only way you can get that substance that he took, hCG, in your body is to inject it, okay?” Romanowski said in a Sirius Radio interview. “So let’s get that clear. So his sob story on TV was, I’m just going to say, was a total lie, okay? … Do you think when he was getting injected in his ass that he didn’t know what was going on? Well, bullcrap. Let’s get real. Be honest about it, Brian.”

At the half:

Brian Urlacher started out taking on Gayle Sayers which was one thing but now he’s got Mike Ditka and Dan Hampton coming at him. Urlacher didn’t like Sayers publicly pointing out the Bears shortcomings but as far as Ditka and Hampton are concerned he was only stating what was apparent to everyone else ... Filling Kurt Warner’s shoes in Arizona is turning out to be tougher than the Cards expected. Through OTA’s the coaching staff is reportedly unimpressed with any of the arms trying to take over the full time gig. That would be Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson. And with Marc Bulger still out there unattached, Leinart and Anderson have to be at least a little concerned.

Fourth and Inches:

Brett Favre sure likes his Southern Miss baseball. Favre paid a visit to the team recently after they lost three games in a row. He was asked about his own future an then basically made this not-so-binding promise. “If you guys go back to the College World Series this year — I will come back and play. How about that? You go back and I go back?” We’re not sure Brett thought this through. The College World Series will be wrapped up by the end of June so if Southern Miss actually gets there, he’ll need another excuse not to take part in training camp. If you want another sign No. 4 will be back in purple next season, ESPN reports that Favre had ankle surgery Friday morning.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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