Game Theory: Is Ben Johnson pricing himself out of a head coaching job on purpose?

It will cost some bad NFL team a pretty penny to pry Ben Johnson away from the Detroit Lions.

Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions
Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions / Mike Mulholland/GettyImages

For a guy who has never been a head coach before, the reported asking price to get Ben Johnson to come to your awful NFL team is equivalent to an arm, and maybe two legs. The Detroit Lions are really cooking under Dan Campbell, man. He may be a self-proclaimed meathead, but the dude is a master motivator as a CEO-type head coach. Campbell also has two great coordinators, including Johnson.

The Lions' offensive coordinator briefly took a few revolutions on last year's coaching carousel before getting off on his own accord to return to Detroit. He was most closely tied to the Carolina Panthers, a team that hired former Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich only to fire him less than a season later. Blessed with two wins on the year, Carolina is circling the drain as one of the NFL's worst teams.

So what is it going to take to get Johnson to leave Detroit willingly? Well, the reported asking price is around $15 million. CBS Sports' Josina Anderson reported Thursday "personnel around the league are discussing their awareness that some owners have been told Lions OC Ben Johnson's asking price is at least or around $15M/year for a head coach job." Elite college coaches don't even net that.

There is a lot to unpack here, especially for the teams who have already fired their head coaches.

Let's discuss what this means for the Panthers, the Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers, as well as a handful of other teams who may conceivably fire their head coach around Black Monday.

Ben Johnson's reported asking price may price some bad teams out

Of the three teams with head-coaching vacancies already, here is what you need to know about them financially. For the Raiders, they are one of the poorest teams in the league. The Silver and Black have had to let star players of theirs leave in either free agency or trade in recent years because of their finances. Things may be improving for them, but Mark Davis is not going to pay Johnson $15 million.

When it comes to the Panthers, it will take at least that amount to get Johnson to Charlotte. David Tepper is one of the richest owners in the NFL but owns one of the least valuable franchises in the league. He can spend whatever he wants as an iconic former hedge fund manager. Given how badly the Bryce Young trade is shaking out for them, why would Johnson even want to go to Charlotte?

And for the Chargers, they are the epitome of cheap. Rather than fire the NFL's greatest imposter in their former head coach Brandon Staley last year, owner Dean Spanos opted to spend roughly $3 million on his "head coach" instead of pursuing a trade with the New Orleans Saints for their former head coach Sean Payton. He was in Los Angeles last year and before going to the Denver Broncos.

In short, I think Johnson is trying to price himself out of going to either the Chargers or Raiders. Carolina could technically afford to pay him handsomely, but that Panthers team is in dire straits. As for other jobs that could open up, keep an eye on the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints and the Washington Commanders as viable landing spots for him. Ownership would pay that gross premium.

There are only 32 of these jobs, but Johnson is clearly being meticulous about where he could go.

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