Derrick Johnson’s return headlines busy first day of free agency for Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Less than two weeks after saying he wouldn’t allow a good football player go when talking about the Chiefs’ all-time leader in tackles, general manager John Dorsey stayed true to his word.

Sept. 17, 2015; Kansas City, MO: Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson during pregame introductions at Arrowhead Stadium. (Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal)
Sept. 17, 2015; Kansas City, MO: Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson during pregame introductions at Arrowhead Stadium. (Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

The Chiefs agreed to a three-year deal with inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, a source confirmed Wednesday night with and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Financial terms were not disclosed and the source spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Chiefs have not announced the transaction.

Johnson, who was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent, has played his entire career in Kansas City since being selected in the first-round out of Texas in the 2005 NFL Draft.

His signing in addition to the re-signing of veteran outside linebacker Tamba Hali on Tuesday ensures two of the Chiefs’ cornerstone defenders should finish their respective careers in Kansas City uniform.

The 33-year-old Johnson finished the past season leading the Chiefs in tackles (116), a year removed from a ruptured Achilles tendon that cost him the 2014 campaign.

Without Johnson in the middle of the defense in 2014, the run defense plummeted to rank 28th in the league, allowing 127.2 yards rushing per game.

Johnson’s return last season heavily contributed to the Chiefs making a vast improvement against the run to finish eighth in the league, allowing 98.2 yards rushing per game.

On his decorated 11-year career, which includes a first-team All-Pro selection in 2011 and four Pro Bowl appearances, Johnson has appeared in 154 regular-season games with 141 starts.

He has 990 tackles over that span to go along with 26 ½ sacks, 13 interceptions, 21 forced fumbles and three touchdowns.

Along with taking care of Johnson, the Chiefs were busy on the first full day of free agency.

The Chiefs addressed in-house matters by bringing back defensive end Jaye Howard on a two-year deal worth up to $12 million and outside linebacker Frank Zombo agreed to a three-year deal, sources confirmed with and The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Howard comes off a career-high 5 ½ sacks after appearing in all 16 regular-season games last year and his return bolsters the defensive line. Zombo has been a special teams ace since joining the Chiefs in 2013 and finished second in special teams snaps (361) the past season.

Sources also confirmed the free-agent signings of offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz and defensive end/outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi.

Schwartz joins the Chiefs after spending the past four seasons with the Cleveland Browns and should immediately challenge for the starting job at right tackle. Massaquoi, who did not play the 2015 season, adds depth as a pass rusher.

But the Chiefs also saw contributors from the 2015 team leave via free agency.

According to sources, quarterback Chase Daniel agreed to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, guard/tackle Jeff Alen will join the Houston Texans, offensive tackle Donald Stephenson agreed to terms with the Denver Broncos and safety Tyvon Branch agreed to a two-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals.


Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.