Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs sever ties with Johnson

— The Sports Xchange —

The Kansas City Chiefs announced on Tuesday that linebacker Derrick Johnson will become a free agent when his contract with the club expires at the start of the new league year on March 14.

It ends Johnson’s 13-year run with the Chiefs.

Johnson, 35, told The Kansas City Star on Tuesday that he was informed recently of the team’s decision by general manager Brett Veach.

“The Chiefs wanted to go young across the board,” Johnson said, according to The Star. “I wasn’t in their plans.”

Johnson signed a three-year, $21 million contract extension in March 2016. But when he restructured that deal a year ago, he freed up $4.25 million and voided the third year of the contract.

When Johnson’s contract is voided in March, the Chiefs will owe him $2.25 million in dead money and he will become a free agent. He would have earned the same amount of money if the Chiefs had released him.

Johnson told The Star he had hoped to return to the Chiefs in 2018, but he now plans to continue his NFL career with another team, hoping to earn a Super Bowl ring.

“Few players in recent history have meant more to the Chiefs franchise and the Kansas City community than Derrick Johnson,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement. “His tireless work ethic and passion for the game made him one of the most productive defensive players to ever wear a Chiefs uniform and one of the most respected players both in our locker room and around the league. Over the last 13 seasons, Derrick represented himself and the Chiefs organization with integrity and class, and he will always be a part of our Chiefs family.”

Johnson is the franchise’s all-time leading tackler, compiling 1,262 career stops, including 993 solo tackles, in his 13 seasons with the Chiefs (2005-17). He earned four Pro Bowl berths in his time with the club.

Johnson played in 182 games (169 starts) with the Chiefs, totaling 27.5 sacks, 14 interceptions, 23 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries.

“I’ve been blessed to be a part of the Kansas City Chiefs organization my entire career,” Johnson said in a statement. “I’d like to thank the Hunt family, my coaches, teammates and the staff for the tremendous amount of support I received over the years. I love Kansas City and this fan base, they’ve always had my back. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to spend 13 years in a place I love. I plan on playing for several more years because I love this game so much, but I look forward to retiring as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs when my career is over. I’ll miss my Chiefs teammates — we made a lot of big plays together over the years — and I wish them the best in bringing a championship home to the best and loudest fans in the NFL.”

Kansas City will be without two of its leaders on both sides of the ball in 2018. The team agreed to trade quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins last month.

“Letting go of a player like Derrick is particularly tough because of how much respect I have for him as a player and as a person,” Veach said in a statement. “He’s had a tremendous career here in Kansas City, and we wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”

“I’m grateful I had the opportunity to coach a player like Derrick,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said in a statement. “He’s a passionate football player and a natural leader. I value the amount of quality work he put in every day for us, including teaching our younger players what it means to be a pro. I think he will make an incredible coach when he is done playing the game, if he chooses.”