The New York Jets first made a free-agent splash when they signed quarterback Michael Vick. They made an even bigger wave in securing former Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson Wednesday.
Once the most explosive ball carrier in the NFL, Johnson inked a two-year deal worth up to $9 million, a league source told ESPN. The base value of the deal is $8 million, and includes another $1 million in incentives, league sources said. Johnson’s deal has a team option for the second year at $4 million, which would have to be picked up in February 2015, according to a league source.
“I see this as a team on the rise,” Johnson told the team’s website. “This is a winning team. They didn’t make the playoffs last year, but I think they were a game out of the playoffs with a rookie quarterback. So I feel like this is a team that can do some good things.”
If Johnson, 28, can return to form, he will be a significant addition. He ran for a career-low 3.9 yards per carry last season. This after rushing for 1,000-plus yards in his each of six seasons, including 2,006 yards in 2009. But his production diminished in recent years, and his high salary made him expendable to the Titans.
Johnson underwent surgery in late January to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee and resumed running only about a month ago. He said after the season that he first hurt his knee in Week 3. He didn’t miss any games and became the fifth player in league history with 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first six seasons.
“I think I’m going to fit in pretty well,” Johnson said on the website. “Just talking to (offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg) and to (coach) Rex (Ryan), who’s a guy that likes to run the ball, I think I’m going to fit in very well. We talked about all those things, catching out of the backfield, getting the ball to me in space.”
Johnson and Vick could end starters, as well as the Jets’ other free-agent signing of consequence, receiver Eric Decker, formerly of the Denver Broncos.