Can Titans afford a Johnson holdout?

Titans running back Chris Johnson wants a new deal. We know that. And, we also know that Johnson can be considered the best overall running back in the entire league — even with the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson in the discussion.

However, are the Titans willing to do what we saw in San Francisco with linebacker Patrick Willis and work around the league’s 30-percent rule to give Johnson what he deserves? A tough deal to get done from the Titans point of view, as the NFP's Andrew Brandt wrote. But, after a season in which he rushed for 2,000-plus yards, it has to be examined.

Contract extensions have been a hot topic lately with Willis, the talk this week of his teammate, Vernon Davis, and this story in Nashville with Johnson — one that we should have all seen coming after those '09 numbers.

But, with Johnson, there is a real chance that this could continue into the summer. As Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reported yesterday, the running back was once again absent from the Titans facility as the team opened up another week of spring practices.

Missing out in May is one thing, but in the summer? A different story when we look at this team.

Save the Vince Young talk for another day as far as I am concerned, because this offense and the way this team game plans for Sundays is centered around Johnson. He is that good and he is that dynamic. A player that can flip the field on a single carry, produce in the screen and draw packages when they are backed up and cause major issues for defenses that over pursue to the football. Johnson forces defenders to play with great technique, tackle well and understand where he is on the field at all times.

A running back who runs with explosive power through the hole and has the best top end speed in the league with the ball in his hands. Basically, the top offensive threat in the game.

Well, sooner or later in this league you have to pay for those. As I said with the Willis deal, teams have to reward the players who produce on Sundays and show that they are outplaying their original contracts — especially players that were originally drafted by the club.

Is this the case with Johnson? From my vantage point, yes, because if the Titans want to compete with Indy in the AFC South, the last thing they want is a holdout from their featured running back come August. Holdouts are disruptive and they can break apart teams and locker rooms. Maybe Johnson is stuck with that rookie deal, but the Titans should at least look at some options to reward their best player.

However, avoid a holdout at all costs. Another slow start and this club will be chasing the Colts and Peyton Manning again.

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