The Chiefs won a grievance this offseason that enabled them to avoid paying Larry Johnson his previously guaranteed 2009 base salary.
But Johnson worked hard all offseason, and impressed the new Chiefs staff enough to keep him as a starter anyway, despite his lofty salary.
The team could be regretting that decision now.
Johnson is dead last in yards per carry among the league’s top 50 rushers with a 2.4 average. He’s getting the ball a lot (fifth in the league in attempts) and not going very far.
Kansas City’s offensive line bears much of the blame, perhaps most of it. But the Chiefs need a runner that can break tackles or make people miss, and Johnson hasn’t been that guy since Herm Edwards gave the ball to him 416 times in 2006. They could pay someone a lot less to run into the defense and fall.
The Chiefs are standing by Johnson:
“The kid ran hard,” coach Todd Haley said of Johnson’s 21-carry, 37-yard performance against the Cowboys. “He stuck it in there. He needs a little help, too . . . It wasn’t all great, but Larry was an important part of us being in a position to win.”
Backup Jamaal Charles has provided some big plays, but the team seems hesitant to use him except as a change of pace/third-down back. Kolby Smith could provide another option soon when he comes off the PUP list.
No matter how hard Johnson is running, he’s not worth the money they are paying him. And there’s no chance he’ll be back next season. (That’s why Florio thinks it’s a good idea for Kansas City to deal him now.)
The contract Carl Peterson gave Johnson in 2007 will go down as a terrible use of the Hunt family’s money, and another reminder for all running backs to get their money while they can, because a steep decline could be right around the corner.