The Chiefs will allow Derrick Johnson to become a free agent this offseason, the club announced on Tuesday morning. A return is not explicitly ruled out, but it is heavily implied in the press release that the linebacker will not be back with the team in 2018.
“Few players in recent history have meant more to the Chiefs franchise and the Kansas City community than Derrick Johnson,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “His tireless work ethic and passion for the game made him one of the most productive defensive players to ever wear a Chiefs uniform and one of the most respected players both in our locker room and around the league. Over the last 13 seasons, Derrick represented himself and the Chiefs organization with integrity and class, and he will always be a part of our Chiefs family.”
Johnson, 35, is the franchise’s all-time leading tackler, with 1,262 career stops to his credit over 13 seasons with the Chiefs. Since entering the league as a first round pick in 2005, Johnson has appeared in 182 games with 169 starts. He’s also earned four Pro Bowl nods, plus a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2011.
“I’ve been blessed to be a part of the Kansas City Chiefs organization my entire career,” Johnson said. “I’d like to thank the Hunt family, my coaches, teammates and the staff for the tremendous amount of support I received over the years. I love Kansas City and this fan base, they’ve always had my back. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to spend 13 years in a place I love. I plan on playing for several more years because I love this game so much, but I look forward to retiring as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs when my career is over. I’ll miss my Chiefs teammates – we made a lot of big plays together over the years – and I wish them the best in bringing a championship home to the best and loudest fans in the NFL.”
Johnson’s deal was set to void when free agency opened up on March 14 as part of his restructured deal that he agreed to last offseason that dealt him a pay cut. The Chiefs will still owe Johnson $2.25 million in dead money after his contract is officially voided.
Last season, Johnson earned a 77.3 overall score from Pro Football Focus, which placed him as the 33rd best linebacker in the NFL. Johnson is no longer a world-beater, but he can still be a quality piece for a 3-4 team in need of veteran reinforcement. Johnson posted 48 tackles last season, the second-lowest mark for a season in which he’s appeared in at least 10 games.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.