Lonnie Johnson Jr. let the feeling sink in while traveling on his flight to Kansas City hours after being traded to the Chiefs from the Houston Texans in exchange for a conditional 2024 seventh-round draft pick.
It was a feeling of excitement and relief, of optimism and joy to be reunited with Chiefs safety Justin Reid, his close friend and former Texans teammate. It was a moment of reflection while the former second-round draft pick from Kentucky embraced a fresh start after being traded at his request days after the Texans drafted cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. in the first round and safety Jalen Pitre in the third round.
League sources had predicted Johnson would wind up in Kansas City as team officials exchanged trade proposals throughout Monday before the deal was finalized in the afternoon.
"Man, it's amazing, bro," Johnson said in a telephone interview. "(Reid), that's my evil twin. I'm just to be in the situation that I'm in. I'm just happy. I'm overwhelmed. It's crazy."
Stingley's addition didn't come as a surprise as coach Lovie Smith had expressed a desire to upgrade at the cornerback position weeks ago. As Johnson emphasized, it was time for both sides to part ways.
"Man, it's amazing, bro," Johnson said in a telephone interview. "(Reid), that's my evil twin. I'm just to be in the situation that I'm in. I'm just happy. I'm overwhelmed. It's crazy. It was just time for us to part ways. I'm just thankful that they did it the right way."
Johnson had made his feelings known on social media, posting a goodbye video hours before he was traded. "Before y’all get to talking krazy on this app I asked for this myself," Johnson wrote. "Thank you Houston Texans for the opportunity this isn’t a farewell this is more like see ya soon ‼️"
The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Gary, Indiana native had grown tired of being shifted back and forth from his natural cornerback position to safety and back to corner again. Johnson, who intercepted a career-high three passes last season, plays the game with an aggressive, hard-hitting style.
”Man, I think they're going to be able to use me the right way and have me go out there and be physical and have me lock down at one position and set a foundation with a team and a position and be myself," Johnson said. "I'm just overall happy and blessed. It was definitely hard and difficult, moving back and forth and not knowing what the situation was going to be.
"I'm just happy to be going to a team that has a winning culture and have a foundation set on who they want to be and what they stand for. They know what they want from me in the system and we both came together at a decision."
In an AFC divisional round playoff loss to the Chiefs in January of 2020, Johnson returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. He also had a hand in allowing star tight end Travis Kelce to catch three touchdown passes. Johnson joins a Chiefs secondary that signed Reid and drafted four defensive backs: Trent McDuffie in the first round, Bryan Cook in the second round, Joshua Williams in the fourth round and Jaylen Watson in the seventh round.
Johnson, who has run the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds, started 19 games for the Texans and played in 25 others. He has 172 career tackles, three interceptions and 13 pass breakups, including 47 tackles and six pass breakups last season in seven starts.
Johnson is entering the final year of a four-year, $5.204 million contract and is due a $1.206 million base salary this year.
He moves on from the Texans and appreciates his three years in Houston, including his relationship with the fans. That included a lot of interactions, some positive and some negative, on social media platforms.
”Man, I enjoyed my time with the Texans throughout the ups and the downs," Johnson said. "I still got love for the Houston Texans. They took me in and drafted me and they showed me a lot with all the different coaches and different defensive coordinators.
"Some of the fans are sorry I'm gone, some don't like that I'm gone and some love that I'm gone. I appreciate the ones who actually care."
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and analyst and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.