Though nothing is set in stone just yet, a divorce between the Tennessee Titans and former 2,000-yard running back Chris Johnson appears to be imminent.
After six straight 1,000-plus-yard seasons with the Titans, Johnson will likely be released at the start of the NFL offseason and the former Pro Bowler will be among the top free-agent running backs available. Johnson underwent a knee scope in January to repair a torn meniscus which he played through last season and still managed 1,077 yards rushing and 10 total touchdowns.
Johnson is expected to be healthy and able to pass a physical when free agency begins in mid-March, and interested teams will be lining up to see what they can get out one of the most explosive backs in recent history. One issue that may stand in the way, however, is what role Johnson is willing to accept with his next team.
In January, Johnson told The Tennesseean he was unhappy with his touches (279) last season and would prefer to play for a team where he can be the centerpiece of the offense. “I feel like if they (the Titans) are not going to use me the way I am supposed to be used and let me be the horse, then I would rather them let me move on,” he said. “Their money would be wasted on me. I feel like if they are not going to use me right, let somebody get me that’s going to use me the right way.”
Whether Johnson gets a chance to be that workhorse remains to be seen, but there will definitely be a market for the running back. Among the teams that could show interest are the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots.
The Giants struggled running the ball last season, and there’s not a lot of experience left in the backfield. Former first-rounder David Wilson was unproductive before getting hurt, and Tom Coughlin will want to revive the running game.
The Browns had a bunch of no-names take over in the backfield after the team sent Trent Richardson to Indy. Adding a productive veteran to an offense that includes Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron could give Cleveland a solid foundation.
Miami will most likely look to pad their depth at running back whether it’s through free agency or the draft unless the team decides Lamar Miller can be a feature back. Johnson would give the Fins a true No. 1 back and a solid running game for the first time in years.
New England and Dallas don’t have a dire need for running back. The Pats are seemingly connected to all veteran free agents, and perhaps Johnson could find a niche in Josh McDaniels’ offense. Jerry Jones likes to make a splash, so going after a big name like Johnson can’t be ruled out.