Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson to become free agent

The Kansas City Chiefs will say goodbye to Derrick Johnson.

The team announced Tuesday the veteran linebacker will be a free agent when his contract voids at the start of the new league year on March 14.

"Few players in recent history have meant more to the Chiefs franchise and the Kansas City community than Derrick Johnson," Chiefs Chairman and CEO 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."

The 35-year-old Johnson spent his entire 13-year career in K.C. after being drafted with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2005 draft. Johnson earned four Pro Bowl bids and is the Chiefs' all-time leading tackler with 1,262 takedowns. He also added 27.5 sacks and 14 interceptions.

"I've been blessed to be a part of the Kansas City Chiefs organization my entire career," Johnson said. "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 played 845 snaps in 2017. He could latch on with a club looking to add a rotational veteran leader on defense.

Letting Johnson go is the first move for Kansas City in a likely purge of veterans on the defensive side of the ball as the Chiefs attempt to get younger heading into the 2018 season.