KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Fourth-round draft picks many times don’t work out, so in that sense it’s not a great loss for the Kansas City Chiefs that linebacker Nico Johnson was signed off their practice squad by the Cincinnati Bengals on Wednesday.
But the Chiefs’ portion of Johnson’s career ended quickly, after he played in just six games last year as a rookie. Even then it was mostly on special teams. This season, it was obvious early that Johnson didn’t figure in their plans. He was on their practice squad, meaning the Chiefs didn’t much care if another team swooped in and signed him, as the Bengals did.
The Chiefs drafted Johnson knowing he had holes in his game, mainly a weakness in the passing game. He showed little in the way of pass-rush skills in college at Alabama and wasn’t good in coverage.
That’s OK. The Chiefs thought he could be a two-down run-stopper, but they figured out quickly Johnson wasn’t going to be able to do even that to their liking.
The Chiefs in the offseason decided to allow one of last year’s starting inside linebackers, Akeem Jordan, to become a free agent. Instead of giving Johnson a shot to win the job, they quickly signed another veteran, Joe Mays.
When the Chiefs lost Mays during the preseason because of a wrist injury, they promoted another free-agent addition, Josh Mauga, and not Johnson into that spot. When the Chiefs lost their other starting inside linebacker, Derrick Johnson, to injury, they again passed over Johnson and gave the job to James-Michael Johnson.
Maybe Nico Johnson will go on to big things with the Bengals. But it wasn’t going to happen with the Chiefs. That became obvious a while back.