KANSAS CITY, Mo. (April 26, 2007) -- The Kansas City Chiefs quickly dispelled rumors they are shopping Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson before the NFL draft.
Team spokesman Bob Moore said the Chiefs have not offered Johnson to anybody and that no team has been given permission to speak with him.
"Anybody who is reporting it's true is simply not telling the truth," Moore said.
The 27-year-old Johnson has been participating in the Chiefs' offseason program, but is entering the final year of his contract. He has made it clear he wants a deal worth more than the eight-year, $60 million contract San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson signed two years ago.
Rumors that Kansas City wants to trade the brooding back, who carried the ball an NFL-record 416 times last season, surfaced as the team scrambles to acquire draft picks. The Kansas City Star, without citing a source, reported that the team had offered Johnson up for trade.
Johnson was asked on Sirius NFL Radio if he would welcome a trade before next season.
"Yeah, to cover myself because I know how fickle the NFL can be as far as age and contracts and running backs," he said. "I would be an idiot to think that I would be taken care of in the long run if I happen to get hurt next year.
"Obviously the numbers could possibly drop. I could possibly not be getting all I could get. If I turn around and play another year I could get the franchise tag. A lot of things play into it.
"I think one thing the fans don't really understand is I don't have a 9-to-5 job. I can't work until I'm 40, until I'm 45. I've got to get what I can get now to take care of not only my future family but my future family's kids and also my grandmother, my aunt. There's a lot of things that play into it when it comes to money."
Kansas City unloaded return specialist Dante Hall to the St. Louis Rams for a fifth-round pick on April 25, falling in line with coach Herm Edwards' desire for a more youthful roster built via the draft.
"When you have a veteran football team, that's very, very good," Edwards said recently. "But at the end of the day, you have to acquire young players along the way."
The Chiefs invited four running backs -- California's Marshawn Lynch, Ohio State's Antonio Pittman, Florida State's Lorenzo Booker and Louisville's Kolby Smith -- for interviews, and have said they are willing to draft a running back in the early rounds.
But Johnson expects team owners Daniel and Clark Hunt to keep him.
"Obviously a lot of things play into it and I have to look at my situation as it goes deeper into June and July," Johnson said. "I've got to sit back and make a decision, but I'm not really ready to make that decision yet as far as what I want to do for my future, as far as covering myself.
"And I think things will work out in the end. I've got the two best brothers as far as owners in the league. Daniel and Clark Hunt take after their father and they're a very compassionate family. I'm pretty sure they would do everything they can to make sure I'm a Chief forever."
But trading Johnson might make sense to those who view the Chiefs as undertaking a major rebuilding effort.
Kansas City is poised to start the season with untested second-year quarterback Brodie Croyle and journeyman Damon Huard, who played well last season when Trent Green missed parts of eight games with a concussion.
The offensive line is full of holes, after the retirement of 11-time Pro Bowl tackle Willie Roaf last season and 12-time Pro Bowl guard Will Shields earlier this month. The wide receiving corps has little depth behind aging Eddie Kennison, and defensive tackle and defensive back remain areas of concern.
Johnson's value has never been higher, either. After rushing for 1,750 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2005, he gained 1,789 yards and had 17 touchdowns last season. His 2,199 yards from scrimmage accounted for 43 percent of the Chiefs' total offense.
"He's still a guy in his prime," said former Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly, who believes the Chiefs will sign Johnson to a contract extension. "I don't know what they could get to replace him. Certainly a draft choice isn't going to replace him."
Another way the Chiefs could acquire more draft picks is by dealing Green, the two-time Pro Bowler who returned from his concussion midway through last season, but never played at the same level.
The Miami Dolphins have reached a tentative agreement with Green, who will be 37 when training camp opens. But the teams have not agreed on compensation, and it is becoming increasingly unlikely a trade will be done by the start of the draft.
The Chiefs are seeking a second-round pick and a late-round pick for Green.