Talks between Rams, Trumaine Johnson were destined to go nowhere

From ESPN - July 17, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- The deadline came and went on Monday without a long-term extension between the Los Angeles Rams and primary cornerback Trumaine Johnson, a development that had been expected for quite some time.

In the end, there probably was not enough incentive on either side.

Johnson, the first cornerback to be tagged a second straight year since Charles Woodson in 2005, is sitting pretty, set to make $16.74 million in 2017, more than any other cornerback in the NFL. With that being the case, it would have been hard for Johnson to settle for a long-term deal that was not on par with the highest-paid players at his position. So locking him up might have required giving Johnson a five-year contract similar to that of Desmond Trufant ($68.75 million with nearly $42 million guaranteed), A.J. Bouye ($67.5 million with $26 million guaranteed) or Stephon Gilmore ($65 million with $40 million guaranteed). Or, at least, something in that neighborhood.

That probably was too steep for the Rams, for three key reasons:

1. Johnson has not proven to be an elite corner just yet. He racked up 13 interceptions from 2013 to '15, tied for fourth-most in the NFL during that time. But that was mainly as the No. 2 guy to Janoris Jenkins. Johnson's interceptions dropped to one last year, his first season as the primary corner, and Pro Football Focus graded him 25th among the 109 at his position.

2. The switch to a new defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, who requires a lot of man coverage from his corners, created uncertainty about Johnson's long-term contributions. Perhaps it was not as big a factor as it was sold throughout the offseason, but it created some doubt for an extension that probably did not have much chance of getting done in the first place.

3. The Rams are focused on other contracts. They want to get something done with Aaron Donald, who is two years away from free agency but skipped organized team activities because he wants a new deal. They also are zeroing in on two other upcoming free agents: inside linebacker Alec Ogletree and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner. The Rams are set up to have about $39 million in salary cap space for 2018, which ranks eighth in the NFL. But they have a lot of lingering free agents, especially on defense.

The fault, really, lies in letting it get to this point.

It goes back to last offseason, when the Rams chose to give Johnson the franchise tag, then watched Jenkins and free safety Rodney McLeod depart via free agency. That was a major blow to the depth in the Rams' secondary, and it created a scenario where the Rams had no choice but to slap Johnson with the franchise tag all over again. Throughout the offseason, from the scouting combine to the final days of the offseason program, general manager Les Snead pointed to the midsummer deadline to negotiate with franchise players and stated that the organization would first like to see if Johnson is a fit for Phillips' system.


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