Due to the NFL lockout, the past month has been a whirlwind of teams scrambling to sign free agents and get their teams together before the season opener on September 8, when the New Orleans Saints take on the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Chris Johnson leaping over Vince YoungTwo pro-bowl players that have suffered from the shortened contract negotiating time are Tennessee Titans’ running back Chris Johnson and the Philadelphia Eagles’ wideout DeSean Jackson. Both are still under rookie contracts, and are being severely underpaid when comparing their performance to other players in the league making near ten times as much.

Jackson was holding out, but has since returned to Eagles training camp- citing that if he had missed the deadline to report, it would have cost him a year of eligible free agency. Jackson has one more year on his contract, and it would have been foolish to lose another year of free agency. He deserves as much as any receiver/returner in the league, with electrifying plays that helped the Eagles make it to the playoffs before eventually losing to the Packers in the first round in one of the best games of the season.

Jackson’s season last year was his most electrifying yet, leading the league in yards per catch with 22.5. He only caught 47 balls, but still managed to lead the Eagles in receiving yards with 1,056. Not to mention 16 carries for 104 yards, an average of 6.5 a carry. The Cal alum totaled eight touchdowns on the season, six receiving, one rushing- but the biggest play of the year for the Eagles was his 65 yard punt return to push the Eagles over the edge and beat the New York Giants to claim the NFC East title.

An amazing year such as Jackson’s, should definitely be rewarded with a real NFL contract. As for Chris Johnson, he had his rookie contract renegotiated to $900,000 a season last year, but wants to renegotiate it again- as he has performed better than any running back in the league his first three years since coming out of East Carolina as the 24th overall pick in the draft.

Last year, Johnson carried 316 times for 1,364 yards, an average of 4.3 yards per carry. He also led the team in receptions with 44 for 245 yards. He amassed 12 total touchdowns, and is one of the fastest players in the league- running a 4.2 40-yard dash.

It seems the Titans felt he had a down season, even though he is by far and away their best player and the focal point of the offense and the main threat to any defense.

It is one thing for owners to give rookies huge contracts for 30-40 million in guaranteed money, something that is baffling to anyone who watches football. Players must first prove themselves, and then get a contract that is a derivative of their performance. The 5’-11”, 190 pound speedster has done just that and then some.

Missing only one game in his three-year career, the 25-year old Johnson has averaged 20 carries a game and nearly 100 yards per game. He has amassed 4,598 rushing yards in his short career, third best all-time for that span. His career yards per carry is 5.0 and he rushed for 2,006 yards in 2009, breaking the total yards from scrimmage record with 2,509. He has 38 career touchdowns, and already has 14 40+ yard runs. He has never caught less than 43 balls in a season, and already has 137 receptions for 1,008 yards in his career.

Johnson’s amazing stats are not rivaled by anyone in the league, not even Adrian Peterson. His durability, versatility and drive to win and gain yards make him a joy to watch. It is a shame the Titans and owner Bud Adams can’t give the man his just due and pay him what he deserves.

Unfortunately for Johnson, by continuing to hold out- he will be penalized another season of free agency. This means he has three years left, instead of two. If the Titans don’t pay this man his worth, he deserves to be traded to somewhere that they will.

It seems in the NFL, owners either overpay for long-term deals, or underpay the real talent and then end up losing them to another city. Tennessee needs Chris Johnson, he is the face of the franchise. Look for Johnson to cut a deal before the season starts or the Titans are going to be in a world of hurt.

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