Derrick Johnson Is More Than the Real Deal

As contract negotiations continued yesterday afternoon and evening to get top draft pick Derrick Johnson signed, the Kansas City Chiefs are just one day away from starting their training camp in River Falls Wisconsin.

Though Chiefs fans are excited to say the least and Warpaint Illustrated is ready to embark on our daily coverage of training camp, what happens in the next 24 hours could indeed shape the fortunes of this team in 2005.

As we reported yesterday afternoon Derrick Johnson and his agent Vann McElroy are working diligently with the Kansas City Chiefs to get the former Texas linebacker signed before the team heads off to River Falls, Wisconsin on Wednesday afternoon.

Getting Johnson in camp is paramount to this organization. Johnson's addition to the defense represents a changing of the guard. Yes he's a rookie but for the Chiefs who were fortunate to find him still on the draft board with the 15th pick, need him to be on the field tomorrow afternoon for their first practice.

From every account this off-season Johnson has shown not only a play making ability but a maturity that is rare in someone so young. Though the Chiefs will have a few question marks at linebacker; there is little doubt that Johnson will line up as a starter come opening day. That is unless he has a long contract holdout.

Watching him glide from sideline to sideline so effortlessly makes you appreciate his enormous talent. Since Johnson was drafted last April many have written about the impact that he'll bring to the this team like the late Derrick Thomas did back in 1989 when he was a rookie.

Those comparisons are unfair to say the least becasue Johnson is a more polished linebacker who can cover receivers out of the backfield, he can rush the passer; though he's certainly not as polished as Thomas but he's far more astute at stopping the run at this age of his development than Thomas was in his entire career. To his defense, Thomas was never asked to be a run-stopper but Johnson when he matures might end up being the most complete linebacker to ever don a Kansas City Chiefs uniform since Bobby Bell. Now that's pressure because Bell was one of the best if not the very best to ever play in the NFL.

That's why it's important that the two sides get a deal done today. McElroy is a solid agent and he's already publicly stated that he hopes to have his client signed today. The Chiefs history has been littered with bitter contract negotiations with their top draft picks but this is not the case this time. In fact, its not even close.

Like in previous years the Chiefs delay in getting talks started with McElroy were on hold until top draft pick quarterback Alex Smith signed his deal with the San Francisco 49ers on Monday. That opened the flood gates as more first round picks started to sign.

For Johnson and the Chiefs today signals what might end up being one of the most significant days in franchise history. Expectations are at an all-time high within the Chiefs fans base and within the organization. With the amazing off-season success that has led to the additions of Patrick Surtain, Kendrell Bell, Sammy Knight and Carlos Hall; the crown jewel might indeed be Derrick Johnson.

It's obvious both sides want a deal done quickly and let's hope after trading contract proposals several times yesterday that the groundwork is set for a deal that could be announced today. If the two sides are close, Johnson could be headed to River Falls while the two sides iron out the language and the millions of dollars that he's expected to pocket courtesy of his first NFL contract.

In other Chiefs news, the team is expected to complete a deal with Fourth Round Draft Pick Craphonso Hodge later today. That leaves only 6th round picks Will Svitek and Khari Long as the teams remaining second day draftees without a contract. Both are expected to complete their deals shortly and each should be in River Falls if not today by tomorrow.

As far as talks with free agent cornerback Ty Law, the Chiefs have cooled on the idea of brining him in and are currently not part of the NFL tour that has landed Law in Detroit and New York. The Lions have yet to offer him a contract and don't have the cap room to sign Law and their draft picks. They have been attempting to restructure some veteran contracts but its unlikely they can give Law the money he's demanding. Law was in New York yesterday and is expected to visit the Jaguars on Thursday before ending his tour with a stop in Pittsburgh.

It does not appear that Law will visit the Chiefs until the weekend at the earliest. That is of course if he still has an interest in talking with Kansas City. At this time, the Chiefs are laying low and I'm sure if Law does not receive a contract offer to his liking from any of the four teams mentioned; that his agent Carl Poston will contact Chiefs President and General Manager Carl Peterson and the two will decide if a visit makes sense for both parties in River Falls.

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