It started with Tyrann Mathieu. The former Arizona Cardinals 2013 third-round safety had a bounce back year with the Houston Texans in 2018, was well liked, loved the city himself, but signed a three-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The “Honey Badger” earned two Pro Bowl appearances and two first-team All-Pro selections. Coming to Houston was the rejuvenation Mathieu needed to get his career back on track.
Then, the Chiefs signed Justin Reid to a three-year deal in free agency.
Then, Kansas City traded for cornerback-turned-safety-then-back-again Lonnie Johnson.
What exactly do the Chiefs see in Texans defensive backs? How are they able to get better production out of them compared to when they were in Houston?
According to Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, the club had their eye on Johnson after the Texans drafted him in the second round from Kentucky in 2019. Kansas City also had Johnson’s former defensive coordinator at Kentucky on staff in Matt House.
The Chiefs were monitoring Johnson’s constant yo-yoing between cornerback and safety with great interest.
“We just kind of make a note of all those conversations and (Lonnie Johnson) was a guy that his name had gotten brought up,” Veach said. “We did have some experience with him. Coach House was here. We went through the process with Lonnie coming out. He was with him at Kentucky and obviously, Justin played with him in Houston. So we were able to talk to both people.
“I think Lonnie was in a situation where he was bouncing around from corner to safety and back to corner, back to safety. I just said, ‘Look we’re pretty good here at safety.’ We have some corners we like, but we also like big, long, press corners. We know he can press, we know he’s physical and we think he’ll come in here and compete.”
In other words, the Chiefs have specific plans for the players they acquire.
The shifting of Johnson between safety and cornerback roles would not be such a problem if not for the fact Houston squandered a second-round talent. Players taken in the top-100 of a draft need to be solid starters for a club throughout their rookie contract, and Johnson was curtailed by having to learn multiple roles. Kansas City knows what they want out of Johnson, and don’t be surprised if he starts to play better than he did while in Houston.