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Brandon Staley heaps praise on free agent John Johnson: There’s no way we have that season without him calling plays

Will the Chargers make him the best offer or should the Rams slap the franchise tag on him?

New York Jets v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

If the LA Rams don’t re-sign John Johnson, it sure as hell doesn’t mean he’s leaving Southern California. That was clear last month when LA Chargers head coach Brandon Staley — formerly the defensive coordinator of the Rams in 2020 — was asked by NFL cornerback Richard Sherman a question on PFF’s The Cris Collinsworth Podcast:

Why did you give Johnson “the green dot”? Meaning, what prompted Staley to have Johnson call plays and run the defense for the NFL’s number one unit in points and yards allowed? Staley didn’t hesitate to give a glowing evaluation of the value that Johnson brought to the Rams defense last season, especially given a “tenuous” situation at linebacker.

“Tremendous communicator, respect of his teammates, and he’s a guy who was never going to leave the field. And our linebacker situation, as you guys know, was a little tenuous in terms of our depth and experience. We just knew John was gonna be out there the entire time. Whether he’s playing safety, star, money, he was gonna be out there. We felt like — the way we play, Richard as you know in the modern NFL, safeties are responsible for most of the communication anyway. They’re the ones saying the most stuff, not the inside linebackers. That’s not the way the game is anymore. We just felt like using him in that way would be the best for the Rams, and I’m glad we did it. There’s no way — there’s no way — we have that season without JJ as the green dot.”

Johnson is slated to be a free agent and there hasn’t been any indication yet that the Rams will use the franchise tag on him to ensure that he won’t get away without a fight or compensation. The most tenuous situation with the Rams right now has little to do with their linebackers and is instead focused on their lack of cap space for 2021. The team drafted safeties Terrell Burgess and Jordan Fuller in 2020, plus Taylor Rapp in 2019, but it doesn’t sound like there’s an obvious replacement for Johnson’s role as the defensive quarterback next season.

Meanwhile, the Chargers have plenty of cap space, a need at safety for a quality starter next to Derwin James, and Johnson wouldn’t even have to move. Will his original LA team be able to do enough to keep him?

Staley also gave Rams fans a reason to believe there’s hope without Johnson, saying that Burgess can play “safety, star, money” and that he’s going to be a “fantastic player.”

The question is asked at 11:50:


Should Rams do whatever it takes to keep John Johnson?

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