As Warpaint's own Nick Athan reported on Wednesday, progress has been made in contract talks with Chiefs running back Larry Johnson, who's initial demands were highlighted by a desire for a contract even larger than the one San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson signed in 2004. With Johnson and the Chiefs trading proposals now twice in the last few days, it's safe to say LJ's expectations have been reduced to a more reasonable ballpark.
Where that figure lies is anyone's guess – it could be contingent upon incentives (say, another 400 carries without blowing out a knee) or perhaps the length of the deal has been adjusted. We'll probably never know, but one thing is certain – Johnson won't be holding out.
Athan's report included the eye-opening fact that LJ loses a whopping 14 grand per day if he sits out training camp. That might be peanuts to players like Peyton Manning and Michael Vick, but for Johnson, who's NFL career has only earned him a few million to this point, that could really add up quickly. Throw in the fact he'll owe the team part of his signing bonus, and it becomes clear that we won't be seeing any Emmitt Smith-like drama while HBO's cameras roll in River Falls.
Give Johnson some credit. It would have been very easy for him to stomp his feet and demand he be paid in a fashion equaling Tomlinson. While holding out would clearly have been pocketbook suicide, anyone can demand a trade these days. Brett Favre pulled that exact stunt near draft day when the Packers whiffed on bringing in Randy Moss.
It sounds silly (especially when you consider the payday coming his way), but I almost feel sorry for Johnson. Chiefs GM Carl Peterson really has him over a barrel at the moment.
As I outlined above, holding out really isn't an option. If a contract isn't worked out, the Chiefs will surely franchise him next season anyway, and after that he'll be a few months short of his 30th birthday, the point of no return for most NFL running backs.
Carl's got his star running back right where he wants him. I figure we'll see the Chiefs and Johnson reach a middle ground shortly before training camp – say about $55 million, with most of it back loaded.
But in the end, that might be the best thing for both parties. Carl comes out of another negotiation smelling like roses, Johnson moves into a higher tax bracket (and earns big-time street cred among Jay-Z's posse) and the Chiefs are set for the next few years at running back. And LJ looks like a model citizen while sweating in Wisconsin during two-a-day's.
This whole situation might blow over without so much as a KC radio meltdown. Disappointing? To some, perhaps, but what Johnson does on the field this season will make for a far better story, be it for good or bad.
LJ Blinks First
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