Jets decline Chris Johnson option

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Sunday, February 15, 2015

After one underwhelming season, the New York Jets have decided to part ways with running back Chris Johnson, declining Saturday to exercise a $500,000 option bonus. They had until Monday to make the decision.

It means Johnson, one of only seven players to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, will be a free agent for the second straight offseason.

Meanwhile, the Jets retained linebackers Jason Babin and Calvin Pace by exercising $250,000 option bonuses.

The Jets signed Johnson last April to a two-year, $8 million contract, thinking he'd add a dynamic presence in their backfield, but he finished with career lows in rushing yards (663), carries (155) and receptions (24).

It was the first time in his seven-year career that he failed to reach 1,000 yards. He produced only four runs of 20-plus yards, getting off to a slow start because of a surgically repaired knee.

Johnson split time with Chris Ivory, which hurt his numbers. The time-share didn't come as a surprise, but Johnson was so confident in his ability to recapture his old form that he figured his role would grow throughout the season.

That didn't happen, as the coaching staff stuck with the two-man approach, splitting the snaps almost evenly. The Jets finished third in rushing offense, so it's hard to quibble with the overall philosophy.

Still, it chafed Johnson, who told in late October, "This is the first time I've ever felt this type of frustration, but there's nothing I can really do about it right now."

In January, Johnson was arrested in his hometown of Orlando, Florida, and charged with the open carrying of a firearm -- a second-degree misdemeanor. The arrest likely had no bearing on the team's decision to release him, but it certainly hurt his chances from a public relations standpoint.

Johnson, who turns 30 in September, was one of the NFL's premier players from 2008 to 2013, rushing for close to 8,000 yards with the Tennessee Titans. His signature year was 2009, when he ran for 2,006 yards. He was a cap casualty after the 2013 season.

Johnson was due to count $5.25 million on the cap, but his release will save $3.5 million for the Jets. It leaves them with only two experienced running backs under contract, Ivory and Daryl Richardson, who spent last season on the practice squad. Bilal Powell, who backed up Ivory and Johnson last season, is a pending free agent.

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