Apr 25, 2007
The Chiefs are in a really tough spot with Larry Johnson. It’s clear they are hesitant to sign him to what would surely be the richest contract in NFL history, but how can they turn their backs on a player who is not yet in his prime and who put together one of the most productive two-year runs in league history?
Johnson is a very difficult player and person to evaluate, not that I know him or have met him. He appears to have a desire to be great – even if it’s fueled by proving his doubters wrong – but there are times when I know he’s dogging it on the field, and that’s not good. He has a reputation for being a little too into his social life and who he’s hanging around with, as opposed to focusing on football, but it’s impossible to argue with his production on the field. If he is dogging it from time to time, he’s still better than everyone else, other than LaDainian Tomlinson.
The Chiefs are barely treading water in terms of being a competitive football team and playoff contender. If they aren’t rebuilding now, they will be rebuilding very soon. If they decide to trade him (they’ve thrown out some feelers, but it’s not likely) or not re-sign Johnson and he holds out, they will be an awful football team this year. But if they extend him and invest a ton of money in him, they may still be a bad football team. It can be a difficult situation when you have a superstar on a bad team. The Chiefs, in fact, actually have two, but they’ve already ensured this off-season that TE Tony Gonzalez will finish his career in Kansas City. Could Gonzalez’ model behavior and reputation factored into their decision to invest in an aging player, at a less key position? I don’t doubt it.
Ultimately, I think the Chiefs will bite the bullet and ensure LJ is happy and paid, but I also think they will draft a fairly high-profile back in this weekend’s draft. After all, there is strong precedent. Back in 2003, when starter Priest Holmes was pining for a new deal and hinting he might hold out, the Chiefs used a #1 pick on a high-profile back, none other than Larry Johnson. Johnson wasn’t happy about landing on a team with a stud on its roster, and he won’t be happy when the Chiefs use a first-day pick on one this year. By doing so, KC will gain some leverage, some insurance, and some help for Johnson, who’s touching the ball too much these days.
Apparently, GB Carl Peterson and the Chiefs follow the same draft model as I do in fantasy football: When in doubt, draft a RB. It’s worked for me in the past, and it’s worked for them.