The heavens are finally smiling upon Kansas City Chiefs fans.
The storied franchise released Larry Johnson on Monday, ending a love-hate (more hate than love) relationship that began the moment he became Priest Holmes’ backup on draft day.
From comments about dirty diapers and gay slurs to slinging drinks at women in bars, the Johnson-Chiefs saga has spanned three head coaches, seven years and 5,996 rushing yards—only 75 yards short of Holmes’ team rushing record.
In fact, there was even a petition going around to prevent LJ from breaking the record, although it doesn’t appear the release has anything to do with that.
Let’s get one thing straight: Larry Johnson is not a bad running back. Despite a horrible offensive line the last few years, Johnson averaged 93.1 yards per game in 2007 when he was healthy and nearly gained 1,000 yards in 2008 (he was 52 yards short). He still has some value as a potent rusher, but his antics and remarks have likely sealed his tomb with other NFL organizations. Then again, Michael Vick funded dog murder and he’s still playing football.
Right off the top of my head, I can think of a few potential suitors for Johnson—namely the Oakland Raiders. Oakland has a history of taking in players with personality issues and a ton of talent. They’re also divisional rivals with the Chiefs and he could be looking for some revenge, a la Favre, after being spurned by the Chiefs. The Raiders are also in serious need of an offensive weapon, especially at running back with Darren McFadden injured.
Tampa Bay is another possible choice for Johnson, as they lack a true No. 1 running back and have instead employed a running back by committee approach.
Other teams that might show an interest include the Patriots, who lack a consistent rush attack week in and week out despite having a solid offensive line, the Cleveland Browns, who frankly have nothing to lose at this point in their existence, and the Detroit Lions, yet another anemic offense that could benefit from a consistent rushing attack and has little to lose from the dip in team chemistry he seems to cause.
In his wake, expect either Kolby Smith or Jamaal Charles to flourish. Both are speedy enough to get around the weak offensive line, and both have shown flashes of excellence starting in Johnson’s place during his injuries.
Finally, the Chiefs have a chance to heal.