After 13 years in Kansas City, the Chiefs have decided to let linebacker Derrick Johnson walk away in free agency.
The team announced on Tuesday that it's going to let Johnson's contract expire, which will make him a free agent on March 14. Johnson signed a three-year extension with the Chiefs in 2016, but that deal didn't last long because the Chiefs asked him to take a pay cut before the 2017 season. As part of the restructured deal, the final year in his contract became voidable, which is why he'll be a free agent in March.
The Chiefs wanted to get younger on defense, so they made no effort to re-sign the 35-year-old linebacker. Although Johnson has been in Kansas City since being the 15th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, he said there's no hard feelings.
"The Chiefs, they wanted to go younger across the board -- that's what (general manager Brett) Veach was talking about," Johnson said Tuesday, via KansasCity.com. "I wasn't in their plans, and I understood that. They've got some cap issues, and even though I would have bended some to be a Chief, there really was no negotiation. I just wasn't in the plans."
Johnson will leave the Chiefs as the player with the most tackles in franchise history. Johnson has been such a vital part of the team over the past 13 years that team owner Clark Hunt released a statement when the Chiefs decided they were moving on from Johnson.
"Few players in recent history have meant more to the Chiefs franchise and the Kansas City community than Derrick Johnson," 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."
13 seasons— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) February 13, 2018
40 quarterback pressures
23 forced fumbles
14 interceptions pic.twitter.com/AGc8QgZeQV
As for Johnson, he said he plans to play a few more years.
"I love Kansas City and this fan base, they've always had my back," Johnson said. "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."
Johnson is the second aging Chiefs defensive player to get shown the door in the past week. The team also cut Darrelle Revis on Feb. 8. On the other hand, one defensive veteran who's expected to stick around in 2018 is Justin Houston. According to Pro Football Talk, Houston isn't on the chopping block, despite his $14.75 million base salary that's about to be on the books for 2018.