In what was probably his last opportunity to stay with the Chiefs, the reigns were released as he galloped to a 2 interception/touchdown game while adding 4 pass deflections.
Heading into his sixth season as an NFL linebacker, Johnson knows this is his last chance to become a legitimate top tier player. Last March, Johnson signed his one year, $2.6 million tender to stay with the Chiefs, but he knows this may be his last shot at landing a big dollar contract.
"It's good. It's another chance to show the NFL that I can really be a big playmaker on a team," Johnson said of his final opportunity with the Chiefs. "Everybody's trying to get that big contract, so I've got this year to see what I can do. I think I'll pass with flying colors."
If money is truly Johnson's driving force, he will have a great opportunity in 2010. Johnson has the potential to be the centerpiece in this revamped defense which will translate to a big dollar free-agent contract when the 2010 season concludes.
Despite his fiscal approach to motivation, the Chiefs need Johnson to have a break-out season. Johnson spent all of 2010 coming of the bench in nickel situations, only accruing three starts. After his showing against Denver, however, the Chiefs will find a way to keep Johnson on the field. So far throughout off-season activity, head coach Todd Haley seems pleased with the new and improved D.J.
"He is invested fully," Haley said as the Chiefs wrapped up mini-camp. "He has been in here, he has stepped it up, and he knows he has to be better for us to be better, so he is working hard".
Haley spent all of last season sending a message to Johnson. This will save new defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel much frustration and allow him to get one of the Chiefs' best linebackers on the field.
In the immortal words of Dick Vermeil, "the diapers are off". It is Johnson's time to finally grow into the top notch LB everyone thought he would be coming out of college. If Johnson can't help improve a defense that has been one of the worst in the league for almost an entire decade, then his chances of getting an opportunity elsewhere are slim.
In 2010, the Chiefs' defensive success and Johnson's pocketbook are one and the same.
15 Days to St. Joe: D.J. on the Hotseat?
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