John Dorsey’s ill-timed decisions are currently crippling the Kansas City Chiefs defense

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 30: Running back Jamaal Charles
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 30: Running back Jamaal Charles /
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Derrick Johnson & Tamba Hali

We need a few disclaimers up front here, before anyone—fan or player—jumps to a conclusion:

1. There will be a day in the near future when both Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali will only conjure good memories. They are both tremendous performers and community role models. They are both in the Chiefs record books for their incredible talent and strong work ethic. They were franchise icons and downright fun to watch.

Someday we will celebrate them both in the Chiefs Hall of Fame. When that happens, it will be a nice anecdote that neither player will have ever played for another team (at least as we see the future now). They were lifelong Chiefs and that means something in the end. It really does. On that day, we might even thank Dorsey for the foresight to keep them in K.C. long enough to make that happen.

2. Brett Veach saw this error and tried to do something about it. In fact, he made a few moves in the hopes that at least one of them would pan out. That leads me to trust his vision as a general manager, that he will be able to assess issues and the timing involved.

Approximately 18 months ago, within a 24 hour period, John Dorsey made three-year contract offers to two longtime linebackers in Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali. At the time, DJ was a 33-year-old who had just bounced back with a full season after losing the previous year to an Achilles injury. Dorsey rewarded those 16 starts with a 3-year, $21 million deal.

Dorsey also offered Hali the exact same deal—a 3-year, $21 million contract—to keep him in Kansas City. Hali was a 32-year-old pass rusher who’d just started 14 games for the Chiefs, adding 6.5 sacks to his career total in the process.

Those totals now seem unfortunate. Not the dollar amounts, since those could be much more easily defended if you look at the yearly average. Rather, the timing involved was off. In fact, if you were paying close attention, it even felt funny then. Three years to linebackers already a few years on the other side of 30? Was there really that much competition for two aging lifelong Chiefs? Did Dorsey even let them test the open market only to ask for the right of first refusal from these loyal Chiefs? Certainly with Andy Reid and a winning culture back in K.C., both players would have given Dorsey the ability to match the best offer made by another franchse, right?

Perhaps those players were offered three-year deals and Dorsey matched it and we’re all none the wiser, but that’s a hard line for me to believe personally. The NFL skews young and 32- and 33-year-old linebackers, even pass rushers, have to settle for one-year deals even several years in a row. Just ask Dwight Freeney or John Abraham or James Harrison.

More than anything, when I’m looking back at these deals, it seems like Dorsey did his players a favor. He kept them in Kansas City for good with commitments that ran one year too long. As I said earlier, we might appreciate this more in time, but for now we’re dealing with an extra year of commitment for aging players.

This is problematic in a few ways:

1. Both DJ and Hali are taking roster spots from players who could be growing into those positions.

2. The presence of both linebackers in assumed starting or contributing roles kept the front office from trying to acquire others to take their place.

3. Not only did the Chiefs fail to find answers at linebacker in the place of Johnson and Hali, the financial commitments to both players most certainly altered the attempted answers found for other positions.

Timing is everything and the fact that Dorsey was one year off on both veterans did far more damage than anyone could have anticipated. That’s the nature of bad timing.