On Sunday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs ended what could have been a messy holdout by signing their top draft pick Derrick Johnson. The deal is reportedly a five year deal worth $10.4 million.
The deal could include guarantees that would pay Johnson somewhere between $7.4 and $7.8 million that will keep him a Kansas City Chief through the 2009 season.
Johnson' signing on Sunday didn't come as a surprise since the 13th, 14th and 16th pick had all agreed to terms over the last 72 hours. Johnson's agent Vann McElroy has been steadfast in trying to get a deal done early in camp so Johnson could get on the practice field before he falls to far behind to compete for a starting spot.
Chiefs President Carl Peterson who made the announcement to the media just minutes after the deal was done; had plenty of smiles on his face in telling everyone Johnson was signed.
"We are happy to announce that we have reached an agreement in principle with Derrick Johnson, our number one pick," Peterson said. "This would not have been done without Denny Thum, our Assistant General Manager who spent countless hours on the phone with these principles. I just got the phone with Derrick and he is very pleased, excited and anxious to get to camp. We will fly him in the first thing in the morning. We have agreed in principal on a five-year contract, no viodables. We are pleased to get this done."
Thus far Johnson has missed four days of work but he did attend all the OTA's, and both Mini-Camps. He was clearly the defensive star in those workouts and is expected to fight for a starting job this season.
Still this negotiation, though it was handled in a professional manner, was difficult because the current agreement with the NFLPA expires in 2007 and agents who fear a possible lockout are trying to get their clients as much guaranteed money over the next three seasons as the can. Though the Owners and NFLPA are reportedly working toward resolving their issues, agents are leery based on the recent madness that made negotiations with the NHL and the NBA so cantankerous. They don't want to have their clients left out in the cold if that should happen. Therefore Van McElroy tried to get many things from the Chiefs but Peterson and Thum held firm.
"They asked for two options and no signing bonuses. They were trying to cram what they have done in the last six or seven-year deals in to a five-year pro-ration which is very difficult. This contract not unlike a lot of them in the draft is a little different than the ones we have done in the past. We wanted a five-year set contract with no voidables. We were able to do that and I hope can come perform for us to make all of us, including myself, Dick (Vermeil) and all of the fans in Kansas City very proud of Derrick Johnson," Peterson said.
The funniest aspect of these negotiations had more to do with where the contract was finalized. Peterson used a Gardening Shed near the practice facility to steal some privacy so he and McElroy could crunch the final numbers.
"When camp begins you got to take what you can find," Peterson said with a smile.
The bottom line is the deal was done without any yelling, screaming or name calling. McElroy is a very stand up agent who as a former player understands how important training camp can be for a young rookie; even one as talented as Johnson.
For Peterson, it was a nice change from some of their recent contract negotiations with their top picks to do things the right way.
"I think it was a very professional negotiation. Surprising to some of you I know, but no tempers flared. No profanity was exchanged. It was just a continuous process to get it done," he said.
Derrick Johnson will come to River Falls on Monday and if the medical staff feels that he's in shape; the former Texas standout will be on the field for the afternoon practice with his new teammates.
He's expected to get a little ribbing from his buddies but Johnson will never have to worry about getting their respect. To a man on defense, his mates are in awe of his talent and his ability to make plays. His presence on the field makes this defense instantly better. He should challenge Keyaron Fox and Scott Fujita for a starting linebacker slot.
Kansas City was fortunate that Johnson fell to the 15th slot and in the end they might have themselves the defensive rookie of the year. Johnson has all the intangibles and talent to be a special player in the NFL and for the Chiefs for a very long time to come.
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