Despite being a perennial Pro Bowler, Derrick Johnson’s name has flown under the radar this offseason.
After the interior missile tore his Achilles on opening day, the Kansas City Chiefs proceeded to allow 4.7 yards per carry throughout the 2014 season—the third-highest average in the NFL.
With free agency around the corner and John Dorsey hairs away from projected cap ceilings, a number of players’ futures—from Tamba Hali’s to Dwayne Bowe’s—have come into question, but what about Johnson’s?
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On one hand, he’s a 32-year-old linebacker who’s rehabbing a torn Achilles; on the other, he (justifiably) made three consecutive Pro Bowls prior to his injury. Furthermore, Johnson only projects to have the 16th-highest cap hit among inside linebackers next year.
Hypotheticals aside, if you know anything about him, you know that he responds well to adversity.
On Tuesday afternoon, the weak-side playmaker posted a video of himself training for next season, adding: “Today is 5 months from my injury, still Not 100% yet but I will be back better than before. #easilymotivated”
From Bob Sutton’s standpoint, Johnson can’t return soon enough. While some will point out that his replacement, Josh Mauga, finished second on the team in tackles, he also tied for the second-most missed tackles among NFL inside linebackers.
For Johnson, 2015 doubles as a contract season. While releasing him would free up $5.25 million in cap space, cutting Hali would create $3.75 million more than that ($9 million total), and the latter’s position has a first-round pick waiting in the wings.
The road to recovery is always a long, arduous one. And at Johnson’s age, given his profession, it only becomes that much longer with each year that passes.
However, Jamaal Charles will be the first to tell you that for No. 56, “no days off” is more than just a hashtag.