David Johnson is keeping an eye on Le’Veon Bell’s contract situation
You will not get much of an argument if you tell someone David Johnson is the Arizona Cardinals’ best offensive weapon.
Last season, the second-year back set an NFL record by recording 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the team’s first 15 games, and likely would have made it a full 16 if not for a knee injury ending his final contest early.
All told, he amassed 1,239 rushing yards, 879 receiving yards and 20 total touchdowns, with the total yardage and scores marking a franchise record and the TD total leading the entire NFL.
So yeah, he’s pretty good.
He’s also underpaid.
A third-round pick in 2015, Johnson is playing under his rookie deal, which was for four years and roughly $2.9 million. According to spotrac.com, last season he held a cap hit of just $708,843, while this season he is set to earn just shy of $800,000.
Johnson is not exactly the type of person who will complain about his salary, but it does not take much to understand that a player of his caliber and value should be earning more. That’s why, as noted in an MMQB column by Andy Benoit, Johnson said he is keeping an eye on what happens with Pittsburgh RB Le’Veon Bell.
In terms of all-around ability, Bell and Johnson are in the same class, and this past offseason saw the Steelers’ back get slapped with a franchise tag that would pay him $12.1 million for the 2017 season, should the sides not agree to a long-term contract.
“I hope he gets the deal he deserves,” Johnson says. “I hope it’s going to be the type of deal that cornerbacks get and quarterbacks get.”
Generally the top contracts go to positions that are not running back, with the thought being runners are easier to find and more likely to break down. Still, the best tend to earn substantial contracts, which would set Johnson up for a hefty payday when it is time for a new deal.
Except for as good as Johnson has been and will likely continue to be, at 25 he is a little old for a third-year pro and will not be considered young when he is up for a new contract.
He understands that — along with the perception of running backs in general — could work against him.
“That is so true,” Johnson says. “I feel like, especially now, with the running backs we have in this league, we’re going to definitely change the mentality of the running back and those contract deals. We’re going to definitely make it (understood) that running backs are more important than you’d think. Everyone thinks it’s a passing league, but I think running backs are starting to show up and show out and prove that you need a good one to be a capable team.”