The 36-year-old Johnson tore his Achilles in Week 14 of the 2016 season after totaling 90 tackles, one sack and one interception in 13 games, and he has never been quite the same player since. It was his second torn Achilles in three years after missing most of the 2014 season with the same injury on his other leg.
Johnson returned to the Chiefs in 2017, registering 71 tackles and a fumble recovery in 15 games before being cut after the season. He signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2018 but started just one of his six games and was cut in October.
The veteran was not able to find another job before deciding to call it a career.
When healthy, Johnson was one of the best in the NFL at his position. The 2005 first-round pick spent most of his time as a starter since joining the league, but he truly broke out in 2011 when he was named first-team All-Pro after tallying 131 tackles.
Pro Football Focus @PFF
👏👏 Derrick Johnson His incredible stretch between 2009-2015 with the Chiefs is almost unparalleled in the PFF era (06-present). 2009 - 90.4 overall grade (4th) 2010 - 90.1 (3rd) 2011 - 81.8 (7th) 2012 - 79.7 (8th) 2013 - 89.0 (1st) 2014 - (injured) 2015 - 82.8 (9th) https://t.co/4wWTRhV8qv
He was selected to four Pro Bowls in five years from there, becoming a leader on perennially one of the top defenses in the NFL.
Johnson has discussed going into coaching after his playing career, and as head coach Andy Reid said in Feb. 2018 after the Chiefs cut Johnson, he would love to have him return in that capacity.
"I'm gonna put a little two cents in for Derrick because he's one of my favorite guys that I've ever coached," Reid said at the time, per Wesley Roesch of Chiefs Wire. "What a career he has had in Kansas City. I'm pulling for him, that maybe something happens for him in the future. If it doesn't I told him to just come back and he can start his coaching career."
Although his next step is still unknown, Johnson completed an impressive career on the field with 1,168 total tackles and four defensive touchdowns.