The Kansas City Chiefs certainly had a busy day on Wednesday, the first day of free agency in the NFL. The day after coming to an agreement with linebacker Tamba Hali on a three-year deal, they retained two more huge pieces of their defense – linebacker Derrick Johnson and lineman Jaye Howard. In addition, earlier in the day, they signed one of the highest-rated right tackles in the game, Mitchell Swartz, formerly of the Cleveland Browns.
NFL Media insiders, Ian Rapoport and Rand Getlin, say Johnson got a three-year deal worth $21 million, while Howard agreed to a two-year deal worth $12 million. Mitchell reportedly signed a five-year deal with KC and will immediately provide a huge boost in productivity over incumbent Jah Reid.
Swartz, 26, spent four years with the Browns and has started 64 straight games after being selected in the second round of the 2012 Draft. Pro Football Focus rated him the sixth-best right tackle in the league last season. He had ties previously with the Chiefs as his older brother, Geoff, spent time here in 2013 before leaving for the NY Giants in 2014.
Johnson, 33, has spent all 11 years of his career with the club and, like Hali, will now probably end his career with them as well. Johnson has gotten 26.5 sacks and 820 tackles in his career and is the franchise all-time leader in tackles. After blowing his Achilles tendon one game into the 2014 season, Johnson bounced back with a surprising 116-tackle performance in 2015 and earned another trip to the Pro Bowl. Pro Football Focus ranked him the No. 3 overall inside linebacker last year — and he earned every bit of that grade. He was also ranked No. 16 in Around The NFL’s top 99 free agents on NFL.com.
Howard, 27, is in his fifth year out of Florida, and will enter his fourth year with the Chiefs this season. He started 13 games last year and was a flat-out stud on defense, racking up 57 tackles and 5.5 sacks as well as forcing a fumble. It will be interesting to see how his signing will affect the contract negotiations with Dontari Poe, who has one year left on his contract.
On the negative side, the Chiefs lost four players Wednesday – offensive guard Jeff Allen (to Texans), offensive tackle Donald Stephenson (to Broncos), quarterback Chase Daniel (to Eagles) and safety Tyvon Branch (to Cardinals). Daniel followed former KC Offensive Coordinator and current Eagles head coach, Doug Pederson, to Philly and is expected to get a chance at a starting job. Allen and Stephenson will also get a chance to start as both of their new teams have a mess on their offensive lines.
However, it is all smiles in Kansas City as the Chiefs were able to hang onto three of the most popular players in franchise history by putting the franchise tag on safety Eric Berry last week and keeping Hali and Johnson in town. The team reportedly is still working out a way to keep cornerback Sean Smith who is a highly-coveted free agent. If general manager John Dorsey can figure out a way to do that, he might be able to run for mayor and win in a landslide.