The tag will kick in on July 15 at 4pm, ET, unless the Rams and Johnson can some to terms on a long-term deal. Once it kicks in, the Rams will be unable to negotiate a long-term deal until after the season. As Schrager alludes to, Johnson will make $16,742,400 on the tag, a 20% raise from his 2016 tag which was an average of the top 5 salaries at the position.
The Rams’ public explanation behind the tag and its exorbitant cost was that the Rams needed to get Johnson into OTAs to determine if he would fit in new Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ defensive scheme as explained by General Manager Les Snead:
So I think what we're going to do with Trumaine is, because everyone is new, we need to work together, live together, see if we all fit. Does Tru fit Wade, does Wade fit Tru? Because it's obvious by the tag number and what corners get paid, it's a heavy investment and you want to be right. Especially when you go long term.
That explanation is, to be blunt, ridiculous. If you take it at face value, what Snead is suggesting that the Rams’ front office and coaching staff is unable to know if a player will fit in their system until seeing them practice in it. That is a very interesting fact with free agency and the 2017 NFL Draft approaching. How could the Rams sign anyone but former Denver Broncos defenders who played under Phillips if that’s the case? How could they justify drafting any defenders? They’d have 0 clue if they’ll fit Wade’s defense!
A year ago, the Rams decided they were going to pursue Johnson over Janoris Jenkins who was allowed to leave in free agency ultimately signing with the New York Giants. That pursuit of Johnson resulted in a tag that was applied for 2016 because the Rams couldn’t work out a long-term deal. That failure has now lasted for 12 months.
There’s no need to sugarcoat this. Johnson’s 2017 tag is an expensive and unavoidable symbol of the failure of this front office to construct and maintain a roster that’s capable of winning football games.
Snead signed a contract extension last year that will keep him the Rams’ GM through the 2018 season.