MOBILE, Ala.—Draft preparations have begun in earnest by all 32 clubs, and now that the season is over for all but two remaining teams, the groundwork for free agency is already being laid.
A watered-down version of free agency. One interesting name that has popped up in circles at the Senior Bowl is Derrick Johnson. There was a buzz during the season that the Kansas City Chiefs would move to trade the former first-round draft but that never happened as he rode the pine all season instead.
Johnson maintained a decent attitude as a starter in the nickel package and came up with some big plays along the way, none bigger than the two interceptions he returned for touchdowns in the Chiefs’ season-ending 44-24 victory over Denver. He’s carried the underachiever label some in the past, but no one expected him to fall that far out of favor.
“He’s the best player they have on my board,” one personnel man said.
What the Chiefs will do with Johnson remains to be seen. He let it be known at the end of the season that he wanted to meet with the front office to discuss his future. If there wasn’t a starting spot moving forward, he’s going to want out. But Johnson, who is out of contract, doesn’t have all the leverage. He’s one of the players that will fall in the trap if there is no extension of the collective bargaining agreement. Kansas City will be able to control his rights as a restricted free agent or perhaps place the franchise or transition tag on him with hopes of moving him in a trade. That probably wouldn’t be a bad situation for him because it would mean he was headed to a team that wanted him. What his value would be in a trade right now, who knows? It’s fair to say the Chiefs didn’t maximize it during the season.
He’s a starting-caliber outside linebacker for a 4-3 defense and there should be a market for him. It just depends what the Chiefs want to do at this point. He could up being a productive player elsewhere who didn’t fit a 3-4 scheme, similar to what happened with Jonathan Vilma in moving from the Jets to the Saints.
“It’s too early to see what’s going to go on contract-wise,” Johnson said at the end of the season. “I’m planning to be back here, so I don’t know all that. We still have different stuff that’s going to go on during the offseason, but I’ll plan on being back.
“I love being a Chief,” Johnson continued. “Do I want to play more? Do I want to start? Yeah.”
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