David Johnson had a grand total of 11 carries in 2017. That’s why the Cardinals are smart to wait and see him play before offering him a new deal.
Earlier in the summer, it seemed David Johnson and the Cardinals had enough common ground to agree to a new contract before the start of the regular season. Now it’s clear that isn’t the case. The Cardinals are smart not to rush into a big money contract for their franchise running back.
The good news for Johnson is that team officials insist he’s still a part of their long-term plans. GM Steve Kleim told local reporters on Friday that he regards Johnson as a guy he wants to “keep as a core member” of the team moving forward. Furthermore, he insists that Johnson’s recent injury history isn’t a factor in the negotiations.
You shouldn’t believe that for a second. The wrist injury that cost Johnson his 2017 season isn’t something with a high probability of recurrence, but it’s still a painful memory for Kleim and company. Human nature dictates that they want to see Johnson healthy and productive on the field in 2018 before they commit a massive amount of money to him.
The fact that Johnson wants a contract in the neighborhood of the four-year, $60 million deal Todd Gurley got from the Rams also gives the Cardinals a good reason to be patient. It’s highly unlikely Johnson is going to sign for anything less than $12 or $13 million per season. That would make him one of the highest paid running backs in the NFL. Arizona can’t afford to spend that type of money on a running back who can’t stay on the field consistently.
This also happens to be a negotiation where the team holds all the cards. If they can’t come to terms with Johnson before the start of the 2019 season, the Cardinals can always use the franchise tag to hold on to him for another season or two. That trump card, coupled with the pressure of time, should help the team push down Johnson’s potential compensation.
Cardinals fans don’t need to worry about keeping their talented tailback for the long haul. There’s still ample time to get a deal done. Slow and steady is the right philosophy for the team on this occasion.