Derrick Johnson: “I plan on playing for several more years”

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 30: Running back Jamaal Charles
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 30: Running back Jamaal Charles /

Despite being set free by the team that drafted him on Tuesday, Derrick Johnson says he still plans on playing for “several more years” in the NFL.

From the outside looking in, it looks as if Derrick Johnson’s professional football career is coming to a close. After 13 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, the team announced today that they were parting ways with the franchise’s all-time leader in tackles. However, if you ask Johnson, he has plenty more football left in him.

Instead of suiting up for a 14th year at Arrowhead, Johnson will instead be looking for meaningful work once free agency begins in mid-March. It will be a surprise to look in the heart of the Chiefs defense and not see No. 56, but then again the move has been expected for quite some time. Johnson clearly looked a step slower last season and he began to lose more and more reps to younger players brought in alongside him as the season progressed.

Brett Veach actually targeted the position in the preseason with trades before the regular season began after taking over as general manager. He first called and re-signed Josh Mauga to return to the team. He then traded special teams ace D.J. Alexander to the Seattle Seahawks for linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis. In his final (and best) move, Veach dealt a future fourth round choice to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Reggie Ragland.

While Mauga didn’t stick on the roster, the other two ushered in a youth movement that definitely made the middle of the Chiefs defense quicker than before. It’s impossible to ignore the upgrades that Ragland especially provided down the stretch, and the acquisitions made it easier to make the call on Johnson, who will now test the waters.

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In a prepared statement for the media, Johnson thanked his teammates, coaches, fans and the Chiefs organization for 13 years. He also said that he’s not ready to hang up his cleats just yet—not for a long time, in fact.

"“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.”"

It will be very interesting to see what Johnson does have left in the middle. While he was definitely slower last season than before, he was working his way back from a second Achilles tear. It’s possible that the Chiefs decided to cut him loose too soon if DJ is still learning working his way into form from that second tear.

Johnson will definitely help some team as a rotational linebacker who will bring instant charisma, leadership and experience to the depth chart. Perhaps it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Oakland Raiders reach out if they fail to re-sign Navorro Bowman.