Free Agency 2016

NFL AM: Chiefs Retain Derrick Johnson


Kansas City Chiefs retain Derrick Johnson:

In a free agency period that has seen teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders jump out quickly by spending some of their loads and loads of cap space, and has seen the New York Giants dish out about $20 million more in guaranteed money than they had the past five seasons combined, the Kansas City Chiefs are quietly doing work to ensure they can remain competitive in a quickly changing AFC West.

While the Denver Broncos have lost both of their quarterbacks, Malik Jackson, and Danny Trevathan to start, the rest of the division is catching up. The San Diego Chargers added speedy receiver Travis Benjamin, and the Oakland Raiders are off to one of the better starts in the free agency period by starting out by signing Baltimore Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele and landing versatile pass rusher Bruce Irvin, along with cornerback Sean Smith, formerly of the Chiefs.

While Kansas City can’t brag about big flashy signings, they’re very quietly going about their business by retaining some of the important pieces that seemed destined to leave.

On Wednesday, the Chiefs brought in the new league year by keeping some of their most important defensive pieces in house. Much as they had with linebacker Tamba Hali, who has played his entire NFL career in Kansas City, the Chiefs re-signed veteran linebacker and lifetime Chief Derrick Johnson to a three-year pact which will likely allow him to finish his career where it began.

The team also re-signed defensive end Jaye Howard who joins Berry, Johnson and Hali as returning Chiefs defenders.

While right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is their biggest free agent splash to date, Kansas City fans should be very excited to see a couple of their better players like Johnson and Hali be able to retire Chiefs. It’s something that doesn’t happen enough in football, and it’s good to see some of football’s best fans watch a couple of their best play their entire careers in one place.

Coby Fleener signs with the New Orleans Saints:

Some were surprised when the Indianapolis Colts re-signed tight end Dwayne Allen to a new long-term contract and allowed Coby Fleener to walk away in free agency. With the Colts needing to dedicate to the run game in attempt to keep all of Andrew Luck’s organs intact this season, sticking with the more complete tight end made sense.

As the New Orleans Saints have shown in the past, their offense doesn’t need a conventional tight end who’s also a good blocker in the run game (See Jimmy Graham), so it made all the sense in the world when the team locked up the former Stanford tight end to a five-year deal Wednesday.

Fleener is a great fit in New Orleans, and he has to be foaming at the mouth to play with Drew Brees and in Sean Payton’s offense.  Of course the fifth-year tight end had a very good relationship playing with his quarterback and college teammate Luck, but the focus of the tight end in the New Orleans offense makes this an incredible opportunity for Fleener.

Saints tight ends have been an integral part of the New Orleans offense for years, and there may not have been a greater example of that than departing tight end Benjamin Watson.

A season ago Watson set career highs in receptions with 74, and receiving yards with 825, while tying his best single season touchdown mark of six.

Jimmy Graham put up monster numbers in the New Orleans offense before being shipped off to Seattle before the 2015 season where he proceeded to look like just another tight end when asked to play like a more conventional tight end for the Seattle Seahawks.

Graham had at least 85 receptions each of his four years as the Saints starting tight end, with no fewer than 889 yards, and at least nine touchdowns each of those years.

This is the opportunity in front of Fleener. The chance to not only be a team’s starting tight end, but a focal point of its offense. The new Saints tight end put up some nice numbers in Indianapolis, but this is an opportunity to prove he’s one of the best tight ends in football. He never looked like that in Indy, but the New Orleans offense has a way of doing that for a guy. Just ask Graham and Watson.

Pacman Jones remains in Cincinnati:

Wednesday the Cincinnati Bengals brought back one of their own, re-signing veteran cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones to a new three-year contract.

Jones would be a tough sell just about anywhere else as the corner has been a headache on and off the field during his NFL career. Last season alone we saw the Pacman help cost his team a playoff game with a ridiculous personal foul in the final moments against Pittsburgh, and you know, ripping Raiders’ rookie receiver Amari Cooper’s helmet off before intentionally slamming Cooper’s head onto it.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around how Jones wasn’t suspended for that altercation in a league that’s supposed to be focused on head injuries and player safety.

You have to give Jones this. While it will always be difficult to reconcile that a man was left paralyzed after an altercation with him where one of his associates allegedly shot the man, he has seemed to stay out of trouble in recent years. Ironically, it’s the poor decisions he makes on the field that still leave you concerned that he might do something stupid off of it.

Jones is a perplexing individual. Unlike a guy like Greg Hardy, who seems to have zero redeeming qualities and teammates can’t seem to get away from fast enough, the Bengals cornerback seems well liked by his teammates, and comes across as a fun guy to be around when doing the media rounds.

On the football field, when he’s not picking up knuckle-headed personal fouls, Jones is the kind of physical cornerback teams want. The former first-round pick of the Titans spent two years in Tennessee before joining the Dallas Cowboys after a year-long suspension, but Jones has seemed more at home since joining the Bengals in 2010.

The veteran cornerback now entering his seventh season with the team has really settled in with Cincinnati, picking off three passes in each of the last three seasons. The biggest question with Pacman will always be if he can keep his head on straight. When he doesn’t, he becomes a pretty ugly person that’s difficult to root for, but when he does he’s a solid football player who brings a lot to the table. After six mostly-successful seasons in Cincinnati, it’s a risk the Bengals can afford to take as much as anybody.

About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.