49ers: Adding LB Derrick Johnson would help Reuben Foster

Recently, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that Kansas City Chiefs’ Linebacker Derrick Johnson’s contract voided after this season, and he now will become an unrestricted free agent.


Recently, the San Francisco 49ers’ talented and promising young linebacker Reuben Foster was arrested for the second time within the last 40 days, which now involves domestic violence, threats, and assault weapon charges. There’s been speculation on what the 49ers should do option wise; release him or keep him on the team. However, recent reports suggest the 49ers won’t rush on a decision involving Foster. If Foster does indeed stay on the team he could be facing a six-game suspension for a first-time offense of domestic violence. 

With Foster facing some level of a suspension, at the very least, to start the 2018 season, the 49ers will have a void to fill even with the healthy return of linebacker Malcolm Smith and the possible re-signing of Brock Coyle.

The 49ers not only need to fill a void in the quality depth and situational down and distance/production department, but also in the mentoring department when considering troubled linebacker Reuben Foster. That mentoring could start with the addition of a veteran player like Johnson. Now hold that thought…

What’s Derrick Johnson’s resume look like?

Johnson standing at 6’3”, 242 lbs., appeared in 182 games (169 starts) with the Chiefs accounting for 1,151 combined tackles, 27.5 sacks, 40 quarterback pressures, 14 interceptions – returning four interceptions for touchdowns – 22 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries. Johnson had a career-high 179 tackles in 2011 which led to his first and only All-Pro honors and his first of four Pro Bowl appearances.

In addition to his four Pro Bowl berths, Johnson was named the club’s Mack Lee Hill Award winner following his rookie season, an award given to the team’s top rookie or first-year player. Additionally, after having a breakout career year in 2011, Johnson was awarded the Derrick Thomas Award, given to the team’s MVP. The former Texas Longhorn originally entered the NFL as the Chiefs first-round pick (15th overall) in 2005.

Johnson has Hall-of-Fame credentials. 

What Derrick Johnson can still bring to the table

Johnson brings five years of playoff experience (2017 eight tackles, one tackle for a loss, one QB hit and a sack against the Tennessee Titans) and veteran leadership. Johnson has the ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks which can translate to sacks (see resume above).  At 35 years young he’s still durable (he’s started an average of 14 games over the last three years) and he can still cover with the best of them which is evident from his Pro Football Focus coverage grade of 86.0 on 512 passing snaps, ranked seventh best out of all NFL linebackers. Johnson has 77 career passes defended and seven in 2017. Johnson can be a third-down coverage linebacker on obvious passing downs and be utilized to cover tight ends and running backs coming out the backfield.

Johnson still posted a respectable overall PFF Grade of 77.3. However, left much to be desired in the run grade game with 39.9. But in a reduced/situational role for what he would bring overall to a young team that played 19 rookies in 2017 would be vital to the team’s success and development of its young players, most notably, Reuben Foster.

Adding LB Derrick Johnson would help Reuben Foster

I’ll let Chiefs’ head coach, Andy Reid, speak to how Johnson would help a player like Reuben Foster. “I’m grateful I had the opportunity to coach a player like Derrick,” Reid said. “He’s a passionate football player and a natural leader. I value the amount of quality work he put in every day for us, including teaching our younger players what it means to be a pro. I think he will make an incredible coach when he is done playing the game if he chooses.”

The 49ers have roughly 62 to 63 million in cap space left

Derrick Johnson signed a two year, $10,250,000 contract in 2017 which, as previously mentioned, was voided. The 49ers could sign Johnson to a two-year seven million dollar deal with a three million base salary. By comparison, 34 years young Elvis Dumervil signed a two-year, $8,000,000 contract in 2017.

Latest transactions by the 49ers: The 49ers announced the signing of Center Daniel Kilgore to a three-year contract extension through the 2020 season (via the team’s website). The salary cap space mentioned above does not reflect Kilgore’s new contract that’s worth nearly $12M with some upside potential, and he gets $7M in guarantees (per Ian Rapoport).  

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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus49ers.comESPN.comNFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Content Creator, player break down specialist and Co-Editor Sequoia Sims

2 thoughts on “49ers: Adding LB Derrick Johnson would help Reuben Foster

  • February 17, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    Why would the niners even want Johnson, at 35 I think that why he got cut, and besides that, the niners aren’t looking for old timers to come in, this team is young and they want to stay that way.

  • March 1, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    Signing Derrick Johnson could prove to be invaluable as a mentor to not only Rueben Foster but to a linebacker mock drafted to the 49ers who may end up being an actual selection in 20 year old Tremaine Edmunds.
    Such mentoring would possibly pay gigantic dividends coming from a player of Johnson’s reputation & Derrick could still prove his value as a passing down specialist especially if Rueben Foster is suspended early in the year.

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