Any plans Chris Johnson has for a renegotiated contract are “premature,” according to Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher.
Fisher, speaking from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., site of Sunday’s Super Bowl, told WGFX-FM 104.5 The Zone that Johnson would likely have to wait regarding any extension, especially with a contract that contains three more seasons currently.
“We’ve done things prior to players going into the last year of their contract. For me to come out right now, it’s way too premature to say we have any intention of doing anything for CJ,” Fisher said.
Johnson, the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year, ran for 2,006 yards this past season, just his second in the league, and said at season’s end that a sizeable raise wouldn’t be something he would push for but something he and agent Joel Segal would likely explore.
“That’s something my agent has got to take care of, my agent and upstairs. I’m not sure. I need to get Bud Adams number,” Johnson said a day after topping the 2,000-yard mark.
He reiterated that in Florida this week, telling WGFX on Wednesday that, "That’s the big thing with the contract,” Johnson told the station. “If I get so many carries or anything like that, a running back doesn’t play for as many years and a lot of times you don’t have time to play a whole contract out, so you’ve got to get it when you can get it.”
Segal, told The City Paper that he would not discuss any contract situations regarding his clients publicly.
Johnson is scheduled to make $550,000 in base salary for 2010, $800,000 in 2011 and $2.21 million in the deal’s final year in 2012, although he has already reached incentives that will bump his salary.
“Everybody wants more money, and he’s not the first person to want more money. He just came out and said it,” Fisher said. “And we can all understand why he wants more money. He had a record-breaking year this year, but he also has made a commitment to us as we have to him.”
The Titans’ general rule of thumb for players with existing contracts is not to renegotiate or extend deals before the player is ready to enter the final year of the deal.
Back in 2002, the Titans did insert an incentive package into defensive end Jevon Kearse’s contract that would allow him to earn more than the five-year deal he originally signed.
Johnson and Fisher made light of the issue of more money when the coach surprised his running back during an interview with the NFL Network.
In the segment, Johnson traded barbs with host Marshall Faulk, whose all-purpose yardage record he broke this season, and spoke of his desire to be the first running back in NFL history to have back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons.
In other areas, Fisher in the interview again stressed the need for the Titans to improve their 31st-ranked defense through the draft and both unrestricted and restricted free agency.
“I think we’ve got some things we need to address offensively, but by and large, as a whole, we need to look at the defense, and we’ve been doing so,” Fisher said. “We’ve got some good young players that can step up, and we’ve also got some players that are getting to the age where I don’t know if they can play 70 or 80 percent of our defensive snaps. We’re gonna look at all those positions and we’re going to address it through any one of those three venues.”
He also indicated that the Titans could hypothetically sign three or four of their own free agents in the coming weeks to keep them off the free agent market. Free agency begins on March. 5.
“Just because we make an effort and we agree to terms over the next two or three weeks hypothetically and we agree to terms with three or four of our unrestricted free agents, it doesn’t mean we’re not interested in the others,” Fisher said. “It’s just that sometimes a player says, ‘I’ve got to go look at the market. I’d like to come back, but I’ve got to go check the market just to make sure that what we’re telling them is true.’
“It’s a complicated process. Mike [Reinfeldt] and his staff do a great job with it and Bud [Adams] has always been very, very supportive of everything we do.”
If there is no new collective bargaining agreement, the Titans will have 11 unrestricted free agents and six restricted free agents.