NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The CJ2K era is over in Tennessee, just the latest step by the Titans in their franchise makeover.
The Titans told Chris Johnson they are releasing him Friday after six seasons to avoid paying $8 million the running back is due in 2014, along with the final three seasons left on the $53.5 million contract he signed in September 2011. His release comes before the Titans start their offseason program Monday with new coach Ken Whisenhunt.
General manager Ruston Webster said the Titans thank Johnson for his contributions, setting so many franchise records and being durable over his six seasons with Tennessee.
"We have had an open dialogue with Chris' agent, Joel Segal, over the last few weeks, and we appreciate the patience and professionalism they have shown throughout this process," Webster said in statement. "We made an effort to trade Chris but were unable to do so."
The Titans have been busy working to replace Johnson, who turns 29 in September. They agreed with Dexter McCluster on a three-year deal at the start of free agency after signing Shonn Greene in March 2013. The Titans also re-signed Jackie Battle recently, along with reaching a one-year deal for kick returner and running back Leon Washington on March 11.
Adding another running back in the May draft also is expected.
It didn't help that Johnson repeatedly said he wouldn't take a pay cut. The Titans didn't face a deadline that would have guaranteed the $8 million Johnson was due in 2014 until the first week of the regular season, but Johnson planned to report for the start of the offseason program Monday.
He flew into Nashville late Thursday night to meet with the Titans on Friday.
"I'd like to thank all of my teammates, the fans, the staff and the coaches who have supported me throughout my journey with the Titans," Johnson said in a statement." I have grown so much as an individual and as teammate over the past few years, and I am excited about the opportunity to bring my experience and talents to a new organization. I'm looking forward to the next chapter and can't wait to contribute to my new team."
Johnson got that big contract in 2011 after holding out through the preseason, calling himself a playmaker who deserved to be paid. He does have the most touchdown runs of 80 yards or longer in NFL history with six — twice the total of anyone else in a group including Adrian Peterson, Barry Sanders and O.J. Simpson. He also has 12 career TD runs of at least 45 yards, trailing only Sanders (18) and Jim Brown (13) in that category.