Chris Johnson wasn't a free agent for long. The former 2,000-yard running back was cut by the Tennessee Titans on April 4 and 12 days later ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that the New York Jets have reached an agreement with Johnson on a two-year deal.
Former Titans RB Chris Johnson reached agreement with Jets on a two-year deal, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 16, 2014
Over the past two years, the Jets have played the low-risk high-reward card on their free agent moves under new general manager John Idzik. They seem to have taken the same road with Johnson — although, according to Pro Football Talk, the deal is the richest one for any running back this offseason at $8 million for two years with an additional $1 million in incentives.
The Jets were one of the run-heaviest offenses in the league last year, with the fifth-most rush attempts in the league as a team. Johnson adds yet another horse to a stable that already includes running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. Neither of those two are considered a big-play threat, and the Jets apparently hope Johnson can provide such a threat for their running game.
That being said, "CJ2K" has crashed on the stat sheet since becoming the sixth running back in NFL history to amass more than 2,000 rushing yards in a season. He had a stretch of 13 games from the middle of '09 to the beginning of 2010 in which he had over 100 rushing yards, but since the end of that stretch, he has broken the 100-yard plateau in just 18 of 63 games.
In his first three years in the league (47 games), he averaged below 3.9 yards per rush attempt just 13 times. In the past three years (48 games), he averaged below 3.9 YPA in 28 games, but he still flashes big play ability from time to time; in the same time frame, Johnson had 78 rushes of 10 yards or more (10th-most in the league) and 24 rushes of 20 yards or more (sixth-most).
He is the ultimate definition of hit-or-miss at the running back position, and has earned a reputation for indecision at the line of scrimmage, with his tentative nature causing him to be stopped before he ever gets going.
The New England Patriots will have to prepare for a wide range of backs when they get ready to face the Jets in 2014. The Jets put an emphasis on running the ball when they faced the Patriots in 2013, totaling 84 rush attempts for 306 yards and two touchdowns. Last year, however, the Patriots only had to prepare for Ivory and Powell; both backs are more of the bruiser variety than a speed back like Johnson.
Johnson also adds a new dynamic to the Jets' passing game, as he instantly becomes the best receiving threat for the Jets out of the backfield. Ivory and Powell combined for 19 receptions, a number which Johnson more than doubled on his own with 42 receptions. That could put stress on the Patriots' linebackers to cover from sideline to sideline, and the cornerbacks to stay disciplined for screens so they can make the tackle.
As a change-of-pace back, Johnson adds an explosive element to the Jets' offense. The numbers indicate Johnson's best days are behind him, but if Johnson can turn his career around in New York, he can prove that his dip in production was a product of his surroundings and not his shortcomings.