Winning is what pays
I'm not sure Chris Johnson is even the best running back in the NFL right now. He certainly hasn't put the Titans on his shoulders and led them deep into the playoffs. He was so good last year that the team replaced the head coach.
I know, it's a team sport and he should not be blamed for all of the Titans' problems. He could use a quarterback to take some of the heat off of him. But if he's going to get paid as the best back in NFL history, he has to help the team win some games and, even better, win some playoff games. The last two years the Titans have gone 14-18.
Johnson is a terrific talent and rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 2009 and more than 1,300 last year. But it's possible he could decline more this season. So do you make him the highest-paid running back in NFL history? No way.
He's Titans' meal ticket
Chris Johnson's value to the Titans goes beyond making long runs and putting points on the board. He helps keep the pressure off the quarterback by keeping the Titans out of obvious passing situations, no small accomplishment when a team is trying to develop a rookie as the Titans are.
He also provides the quarterback with a reliable receiving outlet, which some backs fail to do. He keeps the Titans' defense fresh by keeping them off the field.
And don't forget this: Johnson puts fannies in the seats. He sells jerseys too. Johnson is the Titans' meal ticket in many ways. He is the most valuable asset the team has.
For all of those reasons, the Titans have to pony up.
Salaries always go up
Should Chris Johnson be the highest-paid running back ever? Could he be considered the best in the NFL right now? Sounds like yes to each question.
Salaries don't go down. They might level off for a time, but the upward spiral is inevitable.