The Raiders believe they have fortified their run defense with the front seven additions of middle linebacker Rolando McClain, strong side linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and defensive lineman Lamarr Houston.
Oakland could have be even better in that area if Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans get into a nasty contract holdout.
The Raiders visit the Titans in the regular season opener Sept. 12, and while chances are Johnson will be there, there’s precedent for a standout running back not only successfully holding out for more money, but having his effectiveness reduced dramatically after signing.
Take the case of Larry Johnson, the Kansas City Chiefs running back who was never the same after a 25-day hold out resulted in a contract extension which put $19 million in his pocket _ $12 million in a signing bonus and $7 million guaranteed.
Larry Johnson had the best year of his career in 2007, gaining 1,789 yards on 416 carries and scoring 17 touchdowns. Taking into account the workload and shelf life of the average running back, he refused to report until he had been adequately compensated. In the 34 games since he signed, Johnson has 529 yards for 2,014 yards, averaging 3.8 yards per carry, with eight touchdowns.
The Chiefs cut Johnson last season, he finished up with the Bengals, and signed this offseason with the Washington Redskins, where is not guaranteed a roster spot.
Chris Johnson followed up a standout rookie season in 2008 with a spectacular 2009, gaining 2,006 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns. At 200 pounds, Chris Johnson is only 24, but at 200 pounds is 30 pounds lighter than Larry Johnson. He’s carried 609 times in two seasons. There are indictions he won’t report without a new contract, and the Titans are at present standing their ground, according to the Tennessean.
Tennessee on one hand realizes Johnson is underpaid, but looking to the future, understands a 200-pound back can only take so much pounding until his performance begins to slip. They could easily look to the Larry Johnson contract and be reluctant to make the same mistake.
At least that’s what the Raiders are hoping. Having Johnson show up late to camp, or even better, not at all, would do wonders for Oakland’s ability to defend the run on opening day.