The Kansas City Chiefs announced on Tuesday that linebacker Derrick Johnson will become a free agent when his contract with the club expires at the start of the new league year on March 14. The announcement ends Johnson’s 13-year run with the Chiefs.
“Few players in recent history have meant more to the Chiefs franchise and the Kansas City community than Derrick Johnson,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “His tireless work ethic and passion for the game made him one of the most productive defensive players to ever wear a Chiefs uniform and one of the most respected players both in our locker room and around the league. Over the last 13 seasons, Derrick represented himself and the Chiefs organization with integrity and class, and he will always be a part of our Chiefs family.”
Johnson is the franchise’s all-time leading tackler, compiling 1,262 career stops (993 solo) in his 13 seasons with the Chiefs (2005-17). He earned four Pro Bowl berths in his time with the club.
“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. I’ll miss my Chiefs teammates – we made a lot of big plays together over the years – and I wish them the best in bringing a championship home to the best and loudest fans in the NFL.”
General Manager Brett Veach and Head Coach Andy Reid weighed in on Johnson’s tenure in Kansas City.
“Letting go of a player like Derrick is particularly tough because of how much respect I have for him as a player and as a person,” Veach said. “He’s had a tremendous career here in Kansas City, and we wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
“I’m grateful I had the opportunity to coach a player like Derrick,” Reid said. “He’s a passionate football player and a natural leader. I value the amount of quality work he put in every day for us, including teaching our younger players what it means to be a pro. I think he will make an incredible coach when he is done playing the game, if he chooses.”
Johnson played in 182 games (169 starts) with the club tallying 27.5 sacks, 40 quarterback pressures, 14 interceptions – returning four of those INTs for touchdowns – 23 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries. Johnson had a career-high 179 tackles in 2011 that led to his first of four Pro Bowl appearances. In addition to his four Pro Bowl berths, Johnson was named the club’s Mack Lee Hill Award winner following his rookie season, an award given to the team’s top rookie or first year player. Additionally, after his career year in 2011, Johnson was awarded with the Derrick Thomas Award, given to the team’s MVP. The former Texas Longhorn originally entered the NFL as the Chiefs first-round pick (15th overall) in 2005.