Chiefs Inside Slant

Tony Gonzalez is signed again. Jared Allen is virtually a done deal. Now it's Larry Johnson's turn. Johnson, who has rushed for 3,500 yards and 37 touchdowns the last two years, is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2007 season and he's looking for a new deal, likely in LaDainian Tomlinson range ($60 million over eight seasons).

Johnson is due to make $1.9 million next season as part of the rookie deal he inked in 2003.

At first glance, signing Johnson sounds like a no-brainer. He was as crucial to his offense in 2006 as any player this side of Peyton Manning. He set an NFL record with 416 carries.

But Johnson is one of those players like Randy Moss, like Michael Vick, like Keyshawn Johnson, like Terrell Owens for whom these decisions become complicated.

Johnson has few friends on the team and doesn't like Kansas City. He is temperamental -- sometimes a practical joker, more often a loner. He requires some coddling from coaches and has been a coaching critic and a distracting presence at various points in his four-year career. And that's on his rookie salary.

That's not even mentioning the salary cap implications a $60 million deal would have on a franchise that is probably at least 4-5 players away from contending for a championship. And that figure assumes Kansas City doesn't lose guard Will Shields or quarterback Trent Green this offseason.

Furthermore, history indicates making a long-term investment in a running back that has a 400-carry season on his resume would yield poor returns. The poster boy is Jamal Anderson, who in 1998 had 410 carries. In 1999, he had 19. In the next three years combined, he had 356.

Then again, do you trade Larry Johnson in his prime? How do you dump the league's No. 2 running back, one who fits your offensive style perfectly, when he's 27 years old? If you're going to rebuild, wouldn't Larry Johnson be a good place to start?

The Chiefs have a year to find out.


Defensive end Jared Allen, the Chiefs' leader in sacks over the past three seasons, pleaded guilty to a second charge of DUI and was sentenced to two days of jail "shock time."

Allen's guilty plea in a Leawood, Kan., municipal court earned him two days in jail, two other days in a lockdown drug-treatment program and one day of house arrest. He also paid a $1,000 fine.

His second conviction, which resulted from a Sept. 26 arrest, came while Allen was in a diversion program after an earlier arrest and conviction last May in Overland Park. He was determined to have violated the terms of his diversion program after sustaining a second conviction.

Allen, who has publicly apologized for his action, could face a felony charge on a third arrest. He also likely faces some kind of league-mandated suspension.

-- The Chiefs finally seem willing to attach a corporate name to Arrowhead Stadium.

The club secured the right to sell naming rights to the stadium during a new lease negotiation last year that preceded public approval of a stadium renovation issue. Voters approved a sales tax increase that would generate $425 million toward improvements for both Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums. In exchange, the Chiefs and Royals signed new 25-year leases.

The Chiefs would love to get something close to what Sprint is paying -- $2.5 million annually for 25 years -- to have its name attached to Kansas City's new downtown arena.

At the same time, though, vice president Bill Newman says the Chiefs aren't willing to completely abandon the Arrowhead name that meant so much to the late Lamar Hunt. Any corporation securing naming rights would likely be asked to incorporate Arrowhead into the name, much like the Broncos did with Invesco Field at Mile High.

-- Herm Edwards has completed some changes to his coaching staff, the foremost of which involves moving Dick Curl from assistant head coach/offense to quarterbacks coach, where he replaces the vanquished Terry Shea.

New additions to the staff include Cedric Smith as strength and conditioning coach (replacing Jeff Hurd), Bob Bicknell as assistant offensive line coach (a new position) and Kevin Patullo as offensive quality control coach (replacing Michael Ketchum).

-- Among the street free agents signed by Kansas City was QB Omar Jacobs, a fifth-round draft pick by Pittsburgh out of Bowling Green who spent time on the Eagles' development squad last year. He was one of five Chiefs players assigned to NFL Europe.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're in pretty good shape. Being able to get Tony Gonzalez signed without having to put a large franchise cap number on him really helps. We're not having to look at how we can reduce enough to ensure that we'll be under the cap, as we did last year." -- Chiefs president Carl Peterson on the team's salary cap structure, which is expected to be some $5 million under.


Possible retirements along the offensive line, and how to fill those holes should they arise, are among Kansas City's main concerns in the offseason. Settling the quarterback spot -- retain Trent Green, pursue re-signing Damon Huard? -- and trying to re-sign star RB Larry Johnson before he enters a contract year are equally important.

Perennial Pro Bowl guard Will Shields once again is considering whether to play a 15th season next year at age 36. Shields resisted the urge to step down last year, mainly at the behest of Willie Roaf. When Roaf surprised everyone, especially Shields, with his retirement decision prior to training camp, Shields was irked and could be hard-pressed into duty in 2007.

Another offensive mainstay, 33-year-old Casey Wiegmann, also reportedly is considering retirement after 11 seasons.

Given the uncertainty of their established veterans, the Chiefs will have to decide how intently they will pursue Jordan Black, their incumbent left tackle and a prospective free agent.


1. Defensive tackle. The Chiefs got by last year with James Reed and Ron Edwards, both prospective free agents, but they need more than gap-pluggers here. The up-the-middle pressure is still needed to complement the outside pinch of ends Jared Allen and Tamba Hali.

2. Wide receiver. Veteran Eddie Kennison's production fell off last year (53 catch, 860 yards after 1,000-yard campaigns in the preceding two seasons) at age 33, and youngster Samie Parker shows only occasional glimpses of being a productive player. K.C. needs help here.

3. Offensive line. With G Will Shields and C Casey Wiegmann considering retirement and LT Jordan Black a prospective free agent, K.C. could be patching holes up and down a unit that just a year ago was one of the league's most solid.


TE Jason Dunn was due to have surgery on the back ailment that put him on the Injured Reserve for the final week of the regular season and the playoff game with Indianapolis. The Chiefs were criticized for putting Dunn, an invaluable blocker, down in the final week when it looked like they had no chance of making the playoffs. When a miracle happened and they did advance with a 9-7 record, Dunn was unavailable and Kansas City consequently dealt poorly with Colts DE Dwight Freeney. The Chiefs insist that Dunn wasn't medically cleared to play, even though Dunn said he'd been playing with the injury for weeks.






-- T Jordan Black battled in replacing the retired Willie Roaf at the left tackle position, but he is probably best at the right side where he can get help from a tight end. Still, his versatility and his willingness to play both sides make him a player the team wants to retain.

-- DT Ron Edwards came in and won a starting spot in a weak interior core, and will be welcomed back at a reasonable price.

-- Long snapper Kendall Gammon has a spot here for as long as he wants to play.

-- LB Kawika Mitchell made tremendous progress in developing as a MLB in pass coverage and a team leader. Probably won't be as welcomed anywhere else in the league as he is here, but the price will have to be right.

-- DT James Reed won a starting spot in his first year in K.C., but the Chiefs need more production than he provided. Has a place here, though.

-- CB Lenny Walls didn't have a lot of impact in his first year, and he likely won't command a lot of attention on the market. Has a solid backer in secondary coach David Gibbs.


--DE Jared Allen should get a long-term deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2008. His pass rush from the right end spot is the best K.C. has seen since the days of Derrick Thomas.

--WR Samie Parker should get the highest tendered offer, but he hasn't shown enough as a starter to merit a long-term deal.

--OT Kevin Sampson has had two seasons when he's been given a chance to start, but has been unable to stay healthy. He'll be tendered and given one more chance.

--CB Benny Sapp is a productive reserve and nickel candidate with a pass-rush upside who will be tendered at the highest level.

--LB Rich Scanlon is one of the most productive special teams players who has a spot here at the highest tender.

--K Lawrence Tynes appears to be the kicker of the near-term despite a breakdown in the Indy playoff loss.


-- RB Ronnie Cruz (exclusive rights) was to have been the starting fullback until he went down with a knee injury. He's welcomed here, but the team is looking at other options, including TE Kris Wilson and possibly LB Boomer Grigsby.

-- LB Kris Griffin will be given another shot, but is running out of time.

PLAYER RE-SIGNED TE Tony Gonzalez, potential UFA, 5 yrs, terms unknown. Top Stories