With training camp coming into view for every NFL franchise, the stove is going to start heating up when it comes to play rumors. Veterans are finally going to start asking their agents to find them a home if they’ve not done so already, and teams will get serious about filling roles after having the spring to check out tryout players, rookie free agents, and recent draft picks.
For the K.C. Chiefs, there’s been talk about the need to address defensive end after Frank Clark’s legal issues this spring and summer. In addition, questions surround wide receiver given the lack of any real acquisition despite losing Sammy Watkins.
However, instead of bandying about the typical list of names, we thought we’d take a look at a few under-the-radar free agents who make sense for the Chiefs on the offensive side of the ball.
Duke Johnson, RB
The idea of a running back addition might sound odd at first given the level of talent already on the roster. The Chiefs have a nice stable of running backs already in house, and they even allowed some clear talent to walk already this offseason when Damien Williams was cut loose after opting out of the game in 2020. (He since went on to sign with the Chicago Bears.)
However, if we’re looking at potential offensive additions, I didn’t want to overthink anything. Here’s what is clear: Duke Johnson is one of the best proven pass catchers coming out of the backfield in the entire NFL, and he’s earned that reputation over the last six years. The Chiefs love pass catching running backs to add another wrinkle in the offensive game plan.
This match is really that simple. The Chiefs already have some solid pass catchers on the roster, but if they’re serious about making the Super Bowl, then what would it hurt to offer a veteran minimum deal to one of the best in the business and ask him if he wants to compete and potentially improve the roster?
Right now, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is ready to turn the corner in his sophomore season. From there, Darrel Williams is being paid pretty well in his own contract year to be a primary backup. Jerick McKinnon is the cheap new import hoping to showcase his well-rounded game in Andy Reid’s offense, while Darwin Thompson is a holdover low-round pick hoping to continue to develop.
Like we said, it’s a solid bunch already but Johnson is readily available. Here’s the other thing: Johnson is also only 27 years old. That seems crazy after six full NFL seasons, but he’s durable and versatile and used to playing for horrible teams like the Cleveland Browns (back in those days) and the Houston Texans. Would he take a cheap deal to compete in K.C. for this season?
Given the rigors of the NFL season, having Johnson in house with other backs could really put this offense over the top and provide maximum security for Reid’s offensive wishes in terms of backfield play. He’s been a great complement in the past. Maybe he’s ready to join the NFL’s elite for a chance at a ring.