Larry Johnson Not Gone Yet...
The latest out of Kansas City: Larry Johnson was spotted with the team participating with the during offseason workouts. So what does this all mean? Is LJ not gone?
Although the team opened its first offseason minicamp this past week with Johnson inserted as the team's No. 1 tailback, there seems very little chance that LJ will remain in Kansas City after this weekend's draft.
With that said, I would have to believe there does remain one outside possibility for the Chiefs troubled star to stay with the team; if he's willing to restructure his contract. There's been no indication of such talk, but just do the math.
Only two years ago (from 2005-2006) LJ coming off back-to-back 1,700-yards seasons. during that span he scored 17 rushing touchdowns, carried the ball 752 times, and averaged 4.7-yards per carry.
Only one other running back during that span was better and that was LaDanian Tomlinson (46 touchdowns), although LJ had more total yards (4,292-yds). That was then and this is now.
In the last two seasons, LJ has missed a total of 12 games and his 874-yards and five rushing touchdowns in 2008 were far below what his six-year $45-million deal
Johnson is set to make almost $4-million in 2009. And while it may be a forgone conclusion for him to win any new fanfare anytime soon in KC, given his past history off-the-field, now is the time for LJ to make an impression and shine in the eyes of the new coaching staff.
With new head coach Todd Haley possibly giving him a clean slate, LJ may still have a shot to win a place on the roster this summer, but it's not likely the team would keep him with his current contract.
The Chiefs have a roster filled with scat-backs; Savage, Charles, and Smith are six-feet or shorter and all are under 220-lbs.
Because the team does lack depth and size behind Johnson, if the former Nittany Lion can make good during the minicamps, I couldn't see it being a far reach to expect the Chiefs to offer him a restructured deal loaded with incentives.
Johnson would of course have to clean up his act and would undoubtedly face a "no tolerance" clause in the new deal. Right now, Johnson doesn't have many available options and very little trade value considering his current off-the-field misconduct.
For Johnson it's probably a long shot, but at 29 years of age he still has plenty left in the tank and an opportunity to prove his worth. In Week Four of the 2008 season, LJ carried the ball 28 times for 198-yards (albeit against the Broncos).
He has had a tough run of bad luck the past couple of seasons with injuries, but his body has also been saved from the continual pounded and beating he would have normally faced. His 351 carries over the last two seasons would also be another factor to consider when evaluating whether or not LJ's got game left.
LJ is still the best back in KC and his 139 career receptions should also attract an eye of interest from Coach Haley. At 6'1" and 230-lbs, Johnson is still the ideal size and build for an every down back. It may seem like Johnson is done in Kansas City, but he's not gone yet.
Saturday will not only be a big day for the Chiefs and their fans, but Johnson as well. How the team decides to use their 67th and 102nd overall picks could have a direct impact on what they decide to do with Johnson.
Not only will Chiefs fans be watching intently as the team's brass makes those key decisions, but there's little doubt that Johnson will be, too.
By David G. Ortega