Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson wouldn't be the first person I would expect to be excited for change in the front office and coaching staff. Having been a first round pick in 2005, the new regime has no ties to him. No reason to keep him. No reason to justify his draft position. No reason to continue to wait for him to have a breakout year, which has been the biggest perceived problem with him.
Having averaged 72 tackles and three sacks in his first four seasons in the NFL, Johnson is embracing the change at Arrowhead according to Jerry Briggs of the San Antonio Express-News.
"Change is good, especially for a team that's been losing for the last two seasons. (After finishing) 4-12 and 2-14, we need a change. We had developed a habit of losing, and we have to turn that around.''
Johnson was in San Antonio for a football camp with fellow ex-Longhorn Aaron Ross.
It seems like the last few years in the months leading up to the season opener a new sect of folks predict a DJ breakout season. Statistically speaking, it hasn't happened. Yet.
According to Zach Thomas, that breakout season should be coming in 2009.
"This is going to be his best scheme. It’s definitely weakside linebacker-friendly. It can exploit the talent that he has. Everybody knows how talented and fast he is. If he gets this down where he’s not thinking, just rolling around and just having fun and he knows what to do, he’ll be a great player in this scheme."
DJ essentially agreed when he said the defense was setting him up to have a "breakout season." He characterizes himself as "all-in" with the change at Arrowhead.
He better be all in because he's entering the final year of his five year rookie contract. However, it's unlikely he'll become a free agent in 2010 outright. Per the changes in the collective bargaining agreement in the absence of an extension, the Chiefs will be able to retain Johnson as a restricted free agent.
But Johnson will have to perform this season, as many think he will, to give the Chiefs a reason to retain him.