What's the Going Rate for a Running Back?

An NFL running back is in talks with his team to become the highest-paid running back in NFL history. Unfortunately, the running back and team in question are Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans and not Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings.

In his bid for a big new contract with $30 million guaranteed, Johnson has refused to report to training camp. The Titans are saying that they have been working to get Johnson a new contract since the lockout lifted and that the team wants Johnson to report to camp before a contract extension is completed. Under his current contract, Johnson is set to earn $1 million this season, a salary that doesn't seem low until compared to what other star running backs (Adrian Peterson more than $10 million) are projected to earn this season.

It's understandable that Johnson would want to make as much as other star running backs in the NFL and refusing to report to camp might be the best leverage he can wield in order to he get the deal he wants. I have no opinion one way or the other regarding Johnson and his attempt to sign a lucrative contract. I'm simply intrigued at some of the similarities between his situation and Adrian Peterson's situation with the Vikings.

Both running backs are looking for new contracts, both play for teams that won only six games last season, both have new head coaches, both experienced the drama circus of Randy Moss, and, most importantly, Johnson and Peterson both think they are the best running back in the NFL.

I, like many Vikings fans, was concerned that, like Johnson, Peterson would refuse to report to training camp-waging a holdout in order to make sure he was granted the new contract he wanted. That was not the case. Peterson reported to camp, left for a couple days to attend the birth of his son, and then was right back at camp. And, as Ted and I mentioned in our training camp retrospective, Minnesota's love affair with #28 is still hot and heavy-fans went crazy with joy for a glimpse of Peterson on the field or signing autographs.

I'm sure that the Wilfs, Rick Spielman, and Leslie Frazier don't care about my opinion, but if they did I would tell them to pay Peterson whatever he wanted. Peterson is easily the Vikings fan favorite and, as such, I can only wonder what the fan fallout would be if the team does not make him an obscenely good contract extension.

In the time that Peterson has been with the Minnesota Vikings the only trouble he's gotten into has been a few speeding tickets. I don't want to suggest that high-speed driving isn't dangerous, but Peterson wasn't nudging traffic cops with his bumper or hosting a Love Boat cruise either. As far as his behavior in Minnesota, Peterson has been nothing but a stellar guy and an ambassador for Vikings football in the state. I mention that because if ever there was a time when the Vikings needed all the goodwill they can get, the organization's current bid to get Governor Mark Dayton to call a special session of the legislature to pass a stadium bill would certainly be it.

Not only does keeping a fan favorite happy help the team win support for a new stadium, but considering all the questions the Vikings have at wide receiver since the departure of Sidney Rice and the limited time Donovan McNabb has had to get familiar with the offense, a solid running game from Peterson might be the Vikings' saving grace until the rest of the offense can gel.

So I'm keeping a close eye on what the Titans finally offer to Chris Johnson, I want to know what the going rate is for a star running back. Hopefully, the Vikings will pay attention to it too and then push that number north when it comes to Adrian Peterson's contract.

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