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Chiefs Strongly Deny Larry Johnson Trade Rumors
The Chiefs wasted little time in dispelling the sudden rash of rumors they are shopping Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson before this weekend's NFL draft. Team spokesman Bob Moore told the Associated Press Thursday 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 implicitly calling out a number of otherwise credible reporters in the process.

In case you haven't been paying attention, rumors that Kansas City wants to trade the brooding back, who carried the ball an NFL-record 416 times last season, began to circulate earlier this week as the team scrambles to acquire draft picks.

Kansas City Star beat writer Adam Teicher, without citing a source, was the first to report that Johnson might be available via trade.

And a day after reporting that Johnson wasn't on the trading block, NFL Network insider Adam Schefter jumped on board Wednesday night, when he first told "Total Access" viewers that the Chiefs were indeed shopping their star tailback.

According to Schefter, Kansas City had spoken with the Browns, Packers, Titans, Bills and possibly others -- with other reports hinting the Giants might be on the list of potential suitors.

It should be noted Schefter conceded in his reporting that an unnamed team official told him the Chiefs hadn't engaged in "specific" trade talks. But as Schefter noted, that's something they would probably be reluctant to admit even if it was true.

Then this morning,'s Ted Korth, citing a source "outside of the Chiefs organization," reported that the Packers have offered their first overall pick (16th overall) and fourth round pick (112th overall) in this weekend’s NFL draft for Johnson.

The Packers are seeking a running back to fill the vacancy left by Ahman Green, who signed as a free agent with the Houston Texans in March.

We should note at this point that the 27-year old Johnson 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.

So, before the Packers and Chiefs could get serious about any offers, it's safe to assume the Packers and Johnson would have verbal agreement on long-term deal.

And editor Mike Florio, citing an unnamed league source, subsequently advised readers that no firm offer has been made by the Packers -- or any other team -- for Johnson. But Florio stressed that his source specifically used the words "no firm offer," which suggests that there have been discussions.

The source also told Florio that the Chiefs have not given Johnson's agent, Alvin Keels, permission to shop for a deal with another team.

So, if any discussions with other teams -- like the Packers -- have taken place, it would be an obvious violation of the tampering rules.

Keels told the AP Thursday he preferred not to comment. ...

So. ... Where do we stand?

As Florio suggested a short time ago, "it's now obvious" the Chiefs are willing to move Johnson. And the overriding issue is the money -- specifically, the amount that it will take to get Johnson under contract beyond 2008.

Johnson's desire to pull in more than Tomlinson is certainly more than the Chiefs will pay. So Kansas City is looking to ship him off to another city.

Adding fuel to fire would be the fact that Kansas City 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 last week and have said they are willing to draft a running back in the early rounds.

Trading Johnson would 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," former Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly, who believes the Chiefs will sign Johnson to a contract extension, told the AP Thursday. "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 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.

Kansas City unloaded return specialist Dante Hall to the St. Louis Rams for a fifth-round pick on Wednesday, falling in line with head coach Herman 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."

Trading the productive Johnson would help them achieve that goal.

But Johnson is more than productive. He's also a bit moody. Some might say temperamental. Former head coach Dick Vermeil once openly suggested Johnson was immature.

I had a chance to speak with Johnson at length this time last year. I would kindly characterize him as being very comfortable making waves.

So, as Florio pointed out this afternoon, the reports of possible trade discussions -- without the hoped-for outcome (a new contract or a new home) could leave the coaching staff and the front office "tiptoeing on eggshells in 2007 in order to keep L.J. from pulling a T.O."

Whatever the outcome, I'll be watching and updating further as developments warrant.

As always, you'll find breaking items in the News & Views section of the site with more in-depth reviews of top stories available here in the Headline News section, where you'll also find the weekly Fantasy Notebook each Sunday during the offseason.