Insider Blog: Chiefs Re-Ink Two RFAs, One ERFA

Posted Mar 24, 2010

Restricted free agents LB Derrick Johnson and OL Ikechuke Ndukwe, along with exclusive rights free agent FB Mike Cox re-join the Chiefs for 2010

As was speculated, and later reported, the NFL office was notified that Chiefs restricted free agent LB Derrick Johnson had signed his tender offer this evening. Most everyone expected this to be the end result when he was tendered earlier this month, but with the climate of today’s free agent market nothing is certain.

In short, tendered RFAs (like Johnson) are free to negotiate with other club’s as if they were a free agent, but the player’s club (the Chiefs in this case) retain a right to match opposing offers or receive compensation based off the qualifying tender.

For a prime example of restricted free agents on the move, look no further than the Philadelphia Eagles. That organization has been on both sides of the coin, perusing an opponents’ RFA (New Orleans RB Mike Bell) and having one of their own perused as well (DE Jason Babin by Tennessee…remember him?).

In Bell’s case, the Eagles offered the former Saint a one-year $1.75 million deal in which Bell signed. New Orleans then received seven days to match Philadelphia’s offer. When the Saints declined to match, Bell become Eagles property with no compensation going back to New Orleans because of Bell’s low tender level as an undrafted player.

If a similar situation were to have occurred with Johnson, the Chiefs would have received a first-round draft choice should they have lost Johnson to another offer. By signing the Chiefs tender, Johnson becomes sole property of Kansas City once more.

Johnson was one of over 200 NFL players affected by new, uncapped rules for 2010. He was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after five seasons in the league, but when that number increased to six accrued seasons for an uncapped 2010, DJ lost those UFA rights.

By signing the tender offer with Kansas City, Johnson is guaranteed to make $2.475 million this season based off his reported tender level. He is the first of Kansas City’s restricted free agents to sign a tender offer for 2010.

Johnson wasn’t the only player to re-join the Chiefs yesterday. Scott Pioli has been at the league meetings in Orlando all week, but the team still managed to get the names of FB Mike Cox and OL Ikechuku Ndukwe signed on the dotted line from the road.

FB Mike Cox, an exclusive rights free agent, is back to compete for time at the fullback position. A starter in 2009, Cox spent most of his time as a situational player in Kansas City’s backfield, often times leading RB Jamaal Charles into the defensive second-level. When the Kansas City’s offense was looking for more versatility out of the fullback position, RB Tim Castille would often times relieve Cox.

However, in extremely limited touches over his two-year career, Cox has been able to churn out a few big plays with the football in his hands. His most memorable play to date has to be a one-yard TD run in the 2009 season finale at Denver, his first TD as a pro. Ironically, the offensive package had called for Castille to be on the field, but the ball went to Cox instead.

“Technically, I wasn’t supposed to be in there,” Cox admitted after the game. “Usually they put Castille in there (for that play), but they called it and luckily I paid attention in meetings. I’ll take it. We only needed a couple of inches and I figured I could get that.”

Literally a hardnosed player, Cox is remembered by many Chiefs fans for the re-occurring, season-long open wound in-between his nose and forehead from leaving nothing on the field as a lead blocker. He has made his way in the NFL after joining the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2008.

The other player to re-sign with the Chiefs this today is OL Ikechuku Ndukwe. A restricted free agent, Ndukwe was tendered by the Chiefs before the beginning of the 2010 unrestricted free agency period. He was one of two offensive linemen to come to Kansas City, via trade, from Miami on August 24th. The other, G Andy Alleman, was not tendered this offseason and signed with the Colts earlier this month.

Ndukwe was very much part of the Chiefs rotation of right tackles to begin the 2009 season. After both Damion McIntosh and Barry Richardson held the starting right tackle position in training camp, it was the newly acquired Ndukwe who drew the opening day start in Baltimore. Ndukwe, who had never made an NFL start at right tackle prior to 2009, would hold the position for the first three games of 2009 until Ryan O’Callaghan took over.

A bit of a swing player, it’s uncertain where Ndukwe will factor into the Chiefs offensive line rotation this coming fall. We’ll learn more about the Chiefs specific plans for Ndukwe as the offseason program approaches.

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