We are about to move into the month of May and who would have bet four months ago that Larry Johnson’s name would still be on the Chiefs roster?
The NFL Draft passed without Johnson being dealt away. There was little chance of that happening anyway, because there is no market for Johnson when it comes to a trade. There’s just too much baggage for teams to seriously consider making a deal for him, even for something as low as a seventh-round choice.
There’s his contract, which is significant even if Johnson lost the grievance hearing that lifted the guarantee from those dollars this season. There’s the possibility of further sanctions from the NFL for his off-field problems, especially after he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in a plea bargain with those two assault charges. And, there’s the fact he’ll be 30 years old in November.
Right now, Johnson is handling the situation better than just about anything he’s gone through in the last two or three years. He’s working hard in the off-season strength and conditioning program and he’s keeping his mouth shut. Both of those are smart moves.
Whether it’s new agent Peter Schaeffer or the realization of his situation, maybe both, but right now L.J. has to hope that his future is in Kansas City.
That’s right, Kansas City, the same place he wanted to escape from so badly back in January now holds what amounts to his best hope of playing and making the type of money that’s called for in his contract.
First of all, no team is going to pay Johnson the millions that are still left on his contract. That’s why no team will trade for him without a redone deal.
The only team that might pay is the Chiefs, but the only way that happens is if he works hard and conforms to the program between now and the start of the regular season. And, there’s one more thing he must do: he must show Scott Pioli and Todd Haley that they need him on the field and in the offense.
There’s so much bad information out there about that grievance hearing over Johnson’s contract. The Chiefs did not file the action, neither did Johnson. It was filed by the NFL Players Association. The Chiefs weren’t trying to prove anything, other than to defend the language in the deal that lifted the guaranteed money in this year’s salary because of his suspension. The whole action was pushed by the NFLPA.
Once the Chiefs language was upheld, there was no reason for the team to make any move with Johnson. The only way they owe L.J. the money is if he’s on the roster for the first game of the regular season. Any player who makes the 53-man roster for the opener is guaranteed his contract, even if he’s released that next week.
So in essence, L.J. has between now and the season opener to prove to the Chiefs he can help them in the offense. He needs to show them on the practice field, in training camp and during the pre-season games that he can still run with the power and the anger that made him so good in 2005-06.
The Chiefs might still pull the plug on him; there are no guarantees. They hold all the cards and all the leverage. They could lower the boom on him tomorrow, or they may take him right up to that first week and then cut him, or ask him to take a reduced contract. Or, they might view him as an important part of what they want to get done in ’09 and keep him, play him and pay him.
That last factor is something Johnson can control. In fact, it’s the only thing he can control.
His actions would indicate he understands that fact.
ANOTHER CUT IN PERSONNEL DEPARTMENT
As expected, VP of Player Personnel Bill Kuharich was released by the Chiefs on Wednesday.
His departure brings to seven the number of personnel department people who have been axed by the new regime: Kuharich, director of college scouting Chuck Cook, scouting coordinator Bruce Lemmerman and area scouts Cornell Gowdy, Mike Hagen, Matt Littlefield and Greg Olejack. There are others that could be gone as well, but their names have not surfaced yet. The Chiefs have not released any information on the moves.
Kuharich worked hand-in-hand with Herm Edwards in attempting to rebuild the Chiefs roster over the last two years. Much like Edwards, he believed the way to go was to draft young players and put them on the field, resisting the temptation to go out and sign older veterans to fill out the roster. Unfortunately for both Edwards and Kuharich, that approach brought a 6-26 record and cost them their jobs.
Reportedly, the Detroit Lions called the Chiefs back in January for permission to talk with Kuharich about a job. For some reason, the Chiefs denied the Lions permission, even though it was well known throughout the league that Kuharich would be out of a job come post-draft.
A good man, with a wealth of experience and one of the better talent evaluators in the league, Kuharich will not be unemployed for long.
ADD ANOTHER COLLEGE FREE AGENT TO THE CHIEFS LIST
CB Jackie Bates, 5-9, 183 pounds, Hampton. A transfer from the University of Oregon, Bates was with the Ducks for three seasons, playing in 21 games with nine stars and contributing 67 total tackles with two INTs. He appeared in two games and got a medical red-shirt for that season from the NCAA. Bates transferred to Hampton and played in 17 games for the Pirates, missing five games last year with a hamstring injury. At Hampton he had 76 total tackles with four INTs.
SIGNINGS & MOVEMENT IN THE NFL
BRONCOS – released WR Jayson Foster, FB Andrew Pinnock and TE Adam Bergen.
CHARGERS - released TE Scott Chandler and CB DeJuan Tribble.
LIONS - released TE Michael Gaines and QB Drew Henson.
PATRIOTS – released LB Bo Ruud.
SAINTS – release DT Hollis Thomas.