Tuesday August 21, 2007
The Kansas City Chiefs and running back Larry Johnson have agreed in principal on a six-year deal worth $45 million with $19 million in guaranteed money. Johnson is expected to join the team Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Chiefs fans can now collectively let out a huge sigh of relief, as the team's franchise player is now back in the fold for the foreseeable future. Few players in the entire league are as valuable to their team as the talented 27-year-old, who registered a record 416 rushing attempts in 2006 and represented nearly 48 percent of his team's total offensive plays. Needless to say, locking up Johnson was critical to any success the Chiefs were to have this season and beyond.
From a fantasy perspective, Johnson's extension doesn't change much. He was pretty much penciled in to be a top-five selection come draft day even while engaged in his bitter contract dispute with the Chiefs. Perhaps Johnson's return to the field now cements his status as a top-three pick, ahead of the likes of San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore and Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander.
However, it will nevertheless be interesting to see what kind of a season, production-wide, Johnson delivers in 2007. Despite keeping in shape while training on his own in Arizona during the summer, Johnson cannot be in "game shape" at this point, as he has missed all of training camp. This could also be a positive, though, because given the pounding he endured last season, avoiding such abuse in training camp could allow him to remain fresh this season.
He must also acclimate himself to an offense which could have a second-year signal-caller in Brodie Croyle at the helm. Quarterback Damon Huard (calf) currently nursing a calf injury, and Croyle is slated to start the team's third preseason game. Johnson also will no longer be running behind one of the league's premier offensive lines, as that unit is now a shadow of its former self and is currently dealing with the loss of starting left tackle Damion McIntosh (knee), who is questionable to start the season.
Last but not least, how will Johnson perform now that he has cashed in? Johnson has always wanted to be considered - and paid - as one of the league's top backs. With $19 million guaranteed in the bank, will Johnson continue to run with the same purpose and fierceness as in years past?
Despite concerns that he had too big of a workload in 2006, Johnson will continue to be the focal point of the Chiefs offense this season. He should come close to reaching 400 rushing attempts yet again and put up numbers worthy of a top-tier fantasy running back. However, there are nevertheless factors potential Johnson owners must take into consideration.