Johnson will be a free agent when the new league year begins on March 14 and he said in the Chiefs’ statement Tuesday he plans “on playing for several more years.”
“Few players in recent history have meant more to the Chiefs franchise and the Kansas City community than Derrick Johnson,” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said in a statement. “His tireless work ethic and passion for the game made him one of the most productive defensive players to ever wear a Chiefs uniform and one of the most respected players both in our locker room and around the league. Over the last 13 seasons, Derrick represented himself and the Chiefs organization with integrity and class, and he will always be a part of our Chiefs family.”
“I’m grateful I had the opportunity to spend 13 years in a place I love. I plan on playing for several more years because I love this game so much, but I look forward to retiring as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs when my career is over.”
Johnson, 35, was the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick in 2005. He was the longest-tenured Chiefs player along with punter Dustin Colquitt, who arrived in the same draft two rounds later.
“I’ve been blessed to be a part of the Kansas City Chiefs organization my entire career,” Johnson said in the statement. “I’d like to thank the Hunt family, my coaches, teammates and the staff for the tremendous amount of support I received over the years. I love Kansas City and this fan base, they’ve always had my back. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to spend 13 years in a place I love. I plan on playing for several more years because I love this game so much, but I look forward to retiring as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs when my career is over. I’ll miss my Chiefs teammates — we made a lot of big plays together over the years — and I wish them the best in bringing a championship home to the best and loudest fans in the NFL.”
Johnson stayed with the Chiefs through five head coaches and four general managers. He was a steady presence at inside linebacker, equally adept at defending the run and the pass. He was selected to play in the Pro Bowl four times and was a first-team All-Pro in 2011.
“Letting go of a player like Derrick is particularly tough because of how much respect I have for him as a player and as a person,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said in the statement. “He’s had a tremendous career here in Kansas City, and we wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
He twice returned from torn Achilles tendon injuries that ended two seasons. Johnson tore his Achilles in the season opener in 2014 and again late in the season in 2016.
ESPN’s Adam Teicher contributed to this report.