Nico Johnson is the current candidate to be the starting inside linebacker beside Derrick Johnson. Nico nearly won the starting spot ahead of Akeem Jordan last offseason but rarely saw the field in 2013. Jordan did quite well in run support this past season but was a liability in coverage and had to come off the field often. The most glaring criticism of Nico Johnson coming out of college was his ability to cover in space.
Bringing in a more complete linebacker to play beside DJ may be an underappreciated concept. The Chiefs have 3 very talented linebackers, adding a fourth may seem like a luxury but could be the most beneficial addition off the offseason. Adding another linebacker who can cover would enable the base defense to stay on the field more often allowing Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton to bring more creative blitzes. This would also free safety Eric Berry to expand his game. Here are a few inside linebackers that I would try to sign this offseason.
1. Daryl Smith is coming off a very impressive year. Having 3 interceptions and 19 passes defended he showed his worth as a coverage linebacker. Smith also had an impressive number of tackles and was a leader on the field.
2. Vincent Rey has a short sample size filling in for injuries and having only 3 starts but he played well when called upon but he is still a risk. He is a restricted free agent so getting him away from the Bengals may be difficult but he would be a nice addition to the team.
3. Wesley Woodyard is small being listed at 6’0 but he is a versatile linebacker, I have seen him listed as ILB and OLB. He is coming off a down year that is attributed to an injury (stinger) so bringing him in may come at a reasonable price.
Akeem Jordan may be resigned as well but I feel like he may simply be swapped with the cheaper Nico Johnson both being similar players and with a year of experience it is time for Nico to step up. Daryl Smith would obviously be brought in to play all three downs, Vinny Rey would be asked to do the same but Smith is a much safer bet. Woodyard may be able win the starting job outright, or perhaps could be an alternate with N. Johnson/Jordan in the passing situations.
The NFL is a more pass happy league and teams are spreading out the offensive formations more and more. The Chiefs employed lots of sub package formations. Adding one more player to keep the base defensive formation on the field more is the proper thing to do.