The Los Angeles Rams placed the franchise tag on veteran cornerback Trumaine Johnson for the second consecutive year this week. The tag will grant Johnson approximately $16.8 million for 2017 alone, which will take up about10 percent of the Rams’ overall salary cap. That’s a ton of cash for one player who didn’t make the Pro Bowl last year.
There’s no question that Johnson is a talented cornerback, when healthy. It’s difficult to judge his stats last season since he played through a few injuries. In 14 games, he had 47 tackles, 11 pass deflections and one interception. The previous year Johnson recorded seven interceptions, so the hope in the front office is that he returns to the 2015 form.
Here’s the thing, the Rams have a glaring need at cornerback and losing Johnson would open a severe gap on the roster. I fully understand that, but general manager Les Snead knew this going into the year. If he couldn’t convince Johnson to sign a multi-year deal, then it isn’t worth keeping him. Johnson certainly isn’t worth nearly $17 million. What also puzzles me is that there are plenty of free agent corners that won’t be nearly this expensive.
Snead made it clear that Johnson was the Rams’ “guy” when they tagged him instead of Janoris Jenkins last season. Both corners are talented, and admittedly Johnson is the better of the two. That said, one of the factors in that decision should have been who they can sign long-term. That’s not to say it didn’t happen, because the public may never know, but this decision doesn’t help the team at all.
If cornerback was the Rams’ only glaring need, then the move would make more sense. The Rams have quite a few holes to fill, and only about $20 million in cap space now to fix it. The Rams still need to address wide receiver, offensive line, linebackers, and potentially another cornerback. This isn’t something the Rams can fix in one offseason, but the Johnson move is also temporary unless they can get him to sign a multi-year deal.
Hopefully, new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips wanted to keep Johnson on the roster, not just for his reputation, but for his ability as well. Johnson does appear to be a better fit for a Phillips defense. Moving forward, at least the Rams don’t have to worry about their top cornerback. I am still hoping that they will bring in another decent cornerback to compete with E.J. Gaines, but that may be wishful thinking at this point.