Next Year’s Cleveland Browns Starting RB Possibility


Dec 22, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) runs the ball during the first half of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

While the Cleveland Browns are still without a head coach, their CEO, General Manager and all other front office personnel are still in place. Because of this we can make some assumptions about what they may be looking for in player development. Today we are looking at Chris Johnson, if the picture above didn’t give it away.

Johnson, formerly nicknamed CJ2K as in 2,000 yards that he ran for in 2009, has spent his first 6 years with the Tennessee Titans after being drafted in the first round in 2008. The Titans have just fired their head coach and are looking at cap related issues that could make Johnson’s release likely. The Titans only have about $4.4 million in space and Johnson’s $8 million salary could quickly open up options for whoever the next coach is. Johnson has also said he wouldn’t take a pay cut to stay with the Titans

"Asked if he would take a pay cut, Johnson said: “No way. I don’t feel like it’s all my fault. It’s a team effort.”"

So Johnson won’t take a pay cut for his current team, seems to blame others for his issues and has had diminishing production. Since missing 1 game his rookie year, Johnson has played in all 16 games for the past 5 years.  Following his 2K yard season, which included 358 rushing attempts, as well as 50 receptions, Johnson’s best season was just over 1,300 yards rushing. Since that over 400 touch season his yards per attempt has averaged just over 4, in his big season it was 5.6 following his rookie year of 4.9. Anyone who has watched Titans game has seen Johnson struggled to find, and get, holes to run through instead he dances more often then he has in the past.

So why might he be a fit for the Browns given all these negatives?

His possible availability in the free agent, paired with the Browns vast cap space, means only money would be exchanged for his services. With a number of needs on both sides of the ball, many to be addressed in the draft, not using a pick on a RB could be beneficial. After losing this season, and then firing their head coach after 1 season, the front office may look to add a couple dynamic veterans to their young growing roster, Johnson is a veteran who could be dynamic.

This front office has shown interest in a certain type of versatile back. Dion Lewis, Fozzy Whitaker and Edwin Baker are smaller, dynamic backs as opposed to the bigger pounding “featured backs” many teams have preferred in the past. Johnson has been the epitome of this type of back. Johnson’s production had struggled since the ’08 season of 400 touches.

With the Browns Johnson would be the featured back but could be used in a way to maximize his talents, while minimizing the impact on his frame. With Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, and assumed offensive additions at the QB and/or WR positions, defenses won’t be able to load up on Johnson as they have in years past. This may be one of the reasons Johnson is unwilling to take a pay cut in Tennessee, he has been their lone big play weapon. Johnson may look to put himself in position to be a part of a more diverse offense.

For the Browns, besides adding a veteran with a dynamic history that fits their running back mold, why would the Browns bring in Johnson? The team’s decision makers would have to feel comfortable that his decline is due to the Titans limited offense, believe in their ability to bring in the right coach to make the most of Johnson and structure a contract that gave them an out if Johnson continues to decline.

Do you think Johnson could succeed outside of the Titans limited offense? Are you interested in the Browns bringing him in this off-season if he is cut? How much would be a fair contract for CJ2(1)K?