|06-22-2007, 11:21 PM|
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Adam Schein: It's time to give LJ his payday
Special to FOXSports.com
It's looking like Larry Johnson and Chiefs management are digging in for a holdout at the beginning of training camp.
All the way around, that would be a shame.
The Chiefs can't afford to lose Johnson, a free agent after this season. He is on the books to make $1.7 million this year. To say Johnson is due a megabucks contract extension would be a major understatement.
There's been a lot of chatter about Johnson's worth.
Frank Gore just got $14 million in guaranteed money from the Niners.
Last off-season, Shaun Alexander capitalized on an MVP season, a Super Bowl run and free agency all coming together at the same time to get $14 million in guaranteed money and a long term commitment to stay in Seattle.
In 2004, LaDainian Tomlinson took home $21 million in guarantees with his 8-year, $60 million deal in San Diego. That deal eclipsed Clinton Portis' with the Redskins earlier that calendar year, when he got a $17 million bonus on an 8-year, $50 million contract.
It is very difficult assessing a dollar figure for guarantees to running backs. One runner might have better hands or be a better blocker or be more of a scat back vs. a power back. And of course, there are always injury concerns when giving a runner that type of cash. Portis has been nicked since the deal. Alexander missed time last season. And Gore has had a history of injuries.
But all were worth every penny upon the signing.
And so is Johnson.
It makes for good conversation to rate running backs and wonder if Johnson should get "LT money".
The better question is this: is Larry Johnson worth Tomlinson money to the Kansas City Chiefs?
That answer is unequivocally yes.
There isn't a running back in this league that has carried the ball more since Johnson became a starter, including his whopping 416 carries for 1,789 yards last year.
Skeptics say that they want to see more from Johnson, who was glued to the bench in 2003 after being Kansas City's first-round pick. Then he got into the games sparingly in 2004, good enough to score nine touchdowns, immature enough for Dick Vermeil to hysterically quip that it was time for the second-year pro to "take the diapers off." And being fair, Johnson was buried behind not only Priest Holmes, but the immortal Derrick Blaylock.
But since the middle of 2005, Johnson has matured and his play has been sensational.
s he better than Tomlinson? No, but he is perfect for the Chiefs.
Herman Edwards loves to run the ball. Whether it has been Curtis Martin in New York or Johnson last year in Kansas City, the conservative coach needs a bell cow back.
With Trent Green in Miami, youngster Brodie Croyle under center, star guard Will Shields retired, and the void of tackle Willie Roaf still looming large, Johnson knows the time to get paid is now.
Teams are going to stack eight or nine in the box against him this year, forcing Johnson to keep banging and banging and banging.
If you don't give Johnson the money, how on Earth do you replace him?
Are Michael Bennett and Kolby Smith going to keep the pressure off of Croyle?
It was easy for Seattle, a club with many more seasoned stars on offense, to rationalize that with Alexander last off-season.
The diapers are off. The contract is up. The productivity and work horse mentality are there.
The pay day has to be next.