Free-agent running back Chris Johnson visited the New York Jets on Tuesday, met with ownership and underwent a physical. Unfortunately, he left without a contract.
Are any other teams interested in the 28-year-old?
“That’s a great question,” New York Daily News Jets columnist Manish Mehta said on The Morning Show. “All I was told was that there were two other teams – other than the Jets – who are interested in signing him. Obviously the level of interest in terms of money is the biggest question. So no, no teams have been identified.”
Johnson attended Tuesday night’s game between the Knicks and Nets, during which he said he had other visits scheduled.
“That was news to me,” Mehta said, “because my understanding was that, as of yesterday, he did not (have any other visits scheduled), so that remains to be seen.”
Ultimately, though, Mehta sees Johnson signing with the Jets.
“Look, I think the perfect fit here is the Jets,” he said. “The big gap here is going to be can they come to an agreement financially? Because clearly the team wants him. They wouldn’t have flown him up from Orlando if they weren’t seriously interested, if they hadn’t event talked basic parameters. So I think they’re close, but they’re not there yet.”
Realistically, what can Johnson, who turns 29 in September, expect to receive?
“If you look at the running back market in free agency, you’re talking $3 to $4 million annually – max,” Mehta said. “That’s what running backs have gotten this offseason. I can’t imagine that the Jets would go beyond that. I don’t see a $5-million-a-year, $6-million-a-year deal, whether it’s a one-year deal or a multi-year deal.”
Either way, don’t expect Johnson to sign for more than $4 million annually.
“I don’t know what the offer was, but clearly it wasn’t good enough for Chris Johnson to sign on the dotted line,” Mehta said. “(But) that’s the place I think he believes he can get the most money, and I think ultimately that’s how it’s going to play out. I think the Jets will offer him the most money. It may not be what he wants, but I don’t see other teams who are going to have the flexibility to give him what he wants.”
Looking ahead to the draft, meanwhile, which positions will the Jets likely target?
“It’s going to be either a pass-catcher – whether it’s a wide receiver or a tight end like Eric Ebron – or a cornerback,” Mehta said. “I think the Jets kind of made a misstep in free agency because if they had locked up one of those veteran cornerbacks like Vontae Davis or (Alterraun) Verner or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – or (had brought) back Antonio Cromartie – I think they would have a little more flexibility those first two rounds.
“But right now, with the way that this secondary looks and the way that Rex Ryan wants to play defense, there’s a gaping hole there,” Mehta continued. “So you’ve got to come away with a cornerback in either the first or the second round. It is a deep receiver draft, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Jets went with a cornerback in the first and a receiver in the second. I think the wild card, again, is Eric Ebron out of North Carolina – because if he’s available at 18, I think the Jets are going to pull the trigger on him.”