Rebels need causes. (Whitlock)
:fatlock: is at it again; stirring the pot like the Barbie-Q confection that he baths in.
Rebels need causes. Without one, they appear foolish, immature and angry for no reason.
Larry Johnson is a rebel. Itís in his DNA ó the mind that is always thinking, the comfort with confrontation, the desire to point out hypocrisy and the love of raw honesty.
Unfortunately for Larry Johnson and every football coach who has been blessed to coach him, football has been Larryís lone cause.
Larry rebels on the football field. The results of that rebellion have been both breathtaking and frustrating. Johnson, Kansas Cityís Pro Bowl running back, has set records and caused headaches with equal regularity.
The Chiefs are probably headed for a prolonged migraine this training camp. Without a new contract that pays Johnson $27 million to $28 million in guaranteed money or $25 million to $26 million over the first three years of the deal, I canít imagine why Larry Johnson would report to training camp.
He canít report to camp without a new deal. At age 27 and coming off a 416-carry season, it would be economic insanity for Johnson to play for the $1.7 million the Chiefs are scheduled to pay him. And he canít sit back and wait for the Chiefs to slap him with the franchise tag next season.
ďWhat a lot of people fail to understand is the NFL is the only sport without guaranteed contracts,Ē Johnsonís agent Alvin Keels reiterated to me in an e-mail on Friday. ďIf a player has played four years in the league and hasnít yet cracked the starting lineup, and he was due to earn $1.7 million, itís a good chance that the team would cut the player to avoid paying such a salary. That is the reason players hold out in the NFL. Itís the only leverage that most players have when trying to seek a compromise with their organization. In our case, Larry doesnít want to hold out. He wants to be in camp with his teammates, but holding out is an option.Ē
Holding out is the only option.
The only real question is, what is Larry Johnson worth? Is he worth LaDainian Tomlinson money? And what is LT money?
Tomlinson, the leagueís best back, signed a deal in 2004 that paid him $21 million in guarantees and a little more than $25 million over the first three years. Since Tomlinson signed that deal, thereís been a new collective bargaining agreement and a significant raise in the salary cap.
Thatís why a year ago, Edgerrin James signed with the Arizona Cardinals for $14.75 million in guaranteed money and $25 million over the first three years. The first three years of a playerís contract is important because that is the money he is likely to receive.
What would Tomlinson command in todayís market? Probably $30 million in guaranteed and $35 million over the first three years.
So, in Johnsonís opinion, he is not asking for LT money. Heís asking for less than what LT would command today. Johnson wants a better deal than the one the Cardinals gave James. Does he deserve that? Yes.
Johnson is the second-best back in the league. James is not in his class. He made his name running the ball in Peyton Manningís offense. Itís never easy to run the ball in the NFL, but running the ball with Manning and Marvin Harrison as distractions is a lot easier than what Johnson did last season for the Chiefs.
I canít predict what Johnson will do if he gets his money. Will he become a better teammate, a stabilizing force in the locker room, less moody, less likely to text message during team meetings?
I donít know. Heís a rebel who hasnít found a worthy cause. Thereís no balance in his life. As long as thatís the case, as long as he bucks against the legacy his father laid before him, I suspect LJ will have emotional problems.
But you never know when a cause-less rebel is going to get ďit,Ē settle down and do something productive with his passion. Maybe all Larry needs is unconditional love (money) from the Chiefs.