It is hard to side with anyone when it comes to the multi-million-dollar contracts of professional athletes. On one side, players’ short shelf-life demands that they try to get as much as they can as soon as they can; however, owners have to run a business that requires them to keep expenses down. While I usually side with the players in these cases, Chris Johnson has made the owners seem more justified in their tentative, risk management style approach. The only question now is whether it will affect how Matt Forte and Arian Foster get paid.

There is no question that Chris Johnson out-played his contract. After three straight 1,000+ yard seasons, including a 2,006 yard season in 2009, Johnson proved he was one of the premier backs in the league. Fast-forward to 2011, now, Johnson demanded to be paid like one. He sat out of Titans’ training camp, and pledged he would sit out the entire season if he did not get paid. The Titans’ folded and eventually gave him upwards of $13 million per season. So everyone is happy, Johnson got paid and the Titans have their franchise star wrapped up for the future. Oops! Through the first eight games of the season, Chris Johnson is under-performing his contract, as he is only averaging 3.0 yards per carry, and has only found the end zone one time.

Johnson is not the only superstar to sign a huge deal recently. Adrian Peterson now has 100 million new reasons to wear purple and gold, but unlike Johnson, Peterson has lived up to his deal. He currently sits at No. 4 in the NFL in rushing, and has even found pay-dirt nine times. So who will be the shining example for owners when it comes to ponying up the dough for Forte and Foster? Both backs are in the top ten in rushing this year, and both should demand similar money to that of Johnson and Peterson. It will be interesting to see whether the invisible hand of the market will now also be wearing an invisible Chris Johnson jersey, warning teams of the dangers of writing blank checks to star running backs?
 

Matt Forte

Reasons He’ll Be Paid: Simply put, Matt Forte is the Chicago Bears’ offense. He is currently averaging the biggest percentage of his team’s production in the NFL. At 45.3% of the Bears’ total offense, Forte is in rarified company with the likes of O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson and Jim Brown. Matt Forte is leading the Bears in rushing and receiving, and ranks second in the entire NFL in rushing with 805 yards – only 20 yards behind LeSean McCoy.

Reasons He May Not: He plays for the Chicago Bears. There is no reason Matt Forte shouldn’t be paid. He has outperformed his contract, but unlike Chris Johnson, there was not holdout from Forte, he came to play and has backed it up again this season. The problem is, the Bears don’t pay players what they are worth, and if they do, they do it begrudgingly. Hell, they have needed a No. 1 wide receiver for the better part of two decades, but instead of paying anyone, Jerry Angelo and the cheap Chicago Bears’ front office make patchwork signings, such as Roy Williams this year, to make up for their lack of spending. To this point, the Bears’ contract offers to Forte have been insultingly low, and they could very much risk disrespecting him enough that he walks come free agency time.
 

Arian Foster

Reasons He’ll Get Paid: Arian Foster led the league in rushing last season, and after being plagued by a hamstring injury early in the year, has returned to similar form with 656 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns in limited full-time action. With another 343 yards receiving, Foster is a similar dual-threat player as Matt Forte. The numbers are all there to justify a mega-deal for Arian Foster, but will the Texans’ feel he is worth the risk?

Reasons He Won’t: There are two very big words that diminish Arian Foster’s worth to the Houston Texans: Ben Tate. With Foster in and out of the lineup early this season, Ben Tate stepped in and more than made up for his absence. Currently, Tate has 623 yard rushing to Fosters’ 656; however, Tate has gotten his numbers in nearly 50 fewer carries than has the superstar ahead of him on the depth chart. Tate is clearly not the receiver Foster is, but in terms of giving someone $13 million a season to do what his backup has proven he can do at a fraction of the cost, will the Texans fell the risk outweighs the reward? Plus, with Foster’s hamstring being an issue already, future blowouts would loom larger with a bigger chunk of change being paid out to Foster.

While Chris Johnson’s lack of performance has definitely spiked the running back’s contract punch-bowl, there are other factors also at play in the negotiations of Matt Forte and Arian Foster. Both players will eventually get their money, but it may not be with the teams they currently suit-up for.