Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Updated: August 25, 12:47 PM ET
Chris Johnson, Titans talk deal
ESPN.com news services
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee general manager Mike Reinfeldt said Wednesday's meeting with Chris Johnson was "beneficial," even though no deal was reached.
Reinfeldt expects to talk with the running back's agent again in the "next day or so."
"It was important for us to have a face-to-face meeting so that everyone could have a voice and understand the perspective of the other side," Reinfeldt said in a statement released by the team. "I'm not sure there was any progress made, but I do think it was beneficial to meet. We were able to discuss several different elements of a potential contract, but there was no agreement on those topics."
Neither Johnson nor his agent, Joel Segal, immediately responded to messages from The Associated Press.
Upon his arrival Tuesday night in Nashville, Johnson told The Tennessean that he wasn't sure if the meeting would result in a new deal.
"I want to be here. We'll see," Johnson told the newspaper.
Although the Titans publicly stated they are willing to make Johnson the highest-paid running back in the NFL, those close to the player say he believes he should be paid as one of the NFL's top playmakers -- not just as a running back, sources familiar with the situation have told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
League sources have told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that Johnson is seeking a deal that would pay him $39 million in the first three years, a $13 million average, which would place him in that elite status he is seeking beyond the running back market.
When The Tennessean asked Johnson what would occur if the Titans wouldn't agree to his salary demands, he said he would reserve comment until after Wednesday's meeting.
"I have no answers today. I'll answer that tomorrow," he told the newspaper.
Johnson is scheduled to earn $1.065 million for 2011 after Tennessee revised his contract a year ago to get him more money. His original five-year contract was for $12 million.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound running back has led the NFL in yards rushing the past three seasons since being drafted 24th overall out of East Carolina, and his 4,598 yards rushing ranks behind only Eric Dickerson (5,147), Earl Campbell (5,081) and Jamal Lewis (4,757) for a back's first three seasons.
Now Adrian Peterson is due to make more than $10 million this season, and big-money contracts have been signed all around the NFL since the lockout ended. Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams got $21 million in guaranteed money as part of a five-year deal for $43 million.
The numbers have gone even higher since.
Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald agreed to an eight-year deal worth up to $120 million Saturday night, prompting Johnson to congratulate him on Twitter and tweet "god is good."
Carolina center Ryan Kalil got a five-year deal, and Cleveland gave left tackle Joe Thomas a seven-year deal worth $84 million.
Speedy running backs have a shorter career span. Johnson, who turns 26 on Sept. 23, has missed only one game, and he was deactivated in 2008 with the AFC's top playoff berth already clinched. He has started 46 of the 47 games he has played and has fumbled only six times in three seasons, with 925 rushing attempts and 137 receptions in that span.
"CJ's the best back in the game," fullback Ahmard Hall said. "He makes everybody's job that much more easier. You go out there, you just have to get in front of your guy, get a good connection with your guy, and he's gone. Everybody's seen it around the nation."
Coach Mike Munchak said the fact Johnson came to town is a good sign that they're at least headed in the right direction.
"I know he wants to get this thing resolved," Munchak said. "I know he wants to play this year. I don't think he wants to take the chance of missing games early so you hope his thinking is the same as ours."
Asked about the money Johnson reportedly wants, Munchak said the numbers involved in contracts today shock him. But he said that's why players went on strike in 1987 to get free agency.
"CJ, I'm sure he's trying to get what he thinks he deserves ... Hopefully, it'll get worked out real soon," Munchak said.
The Titans open the season Sept. 11 at Jacksonville. If the stalemate threatens to continue into the season, the Titans likely will need to add a veteran running back.
Javon Ringer has shown flashes backing up Johnson the past two seasons as a fifth-round pick in 2009, but the All-American out of Michigan State has only 59 carries for 287 yards and two touchdowns. He also missed the past week with a bruised hip.
Rookie Jamie Harper has looked very good this preseason, especially last weekend when he started at St. Louis. The fourth-round pick out of Clemson currently leads the team with 110 yards rushing on 19 carries with two touchdowns.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.