Sometimes in the NFL you lose players that you desperately want to keep, but the nature of the business and free agency make it either impossible or inadvisable. It wasn’t impossible for the L.A. Rams to keep John Johnson in 2021, but it was inadvisable.
The Rams let their starting safety leave for a three-year, $33.75 million contract with the Cleveland Browns because that was too much money for Les Snead to spend on a free safety. It was too much money for Johnson to walk away from it. The Rams would then win the Super Bowl with Eric Weddle being their primary safety playmaker for the playoffs and Johnson has been losing with the Browns...but getting paid.
The Browns will pay Johnson no more.
On Tuesday, news broke that Cleveland will release Johnson if they are unable to find a trade partner, which seems unlikely. Johnson has an $8.75 million base salary and a $1 million roster bonus, neither being guaranteed, so the Browns will release him to save cash. They still have $12.6 million in dead money in 2023, $8.85 million in 2024, $5.1 million in 2025, and $1.35 million in 2026.
Those void years were the hoops that the Browns had to jump through just to get Johnson under the cap. The Rams should not have to maneuver any hoops to bring Johnson back and right now is the perfect time to do it.
Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott are both free agents, and safety Jordan Fuller played his best ball when he had John Johnson by his side. When Johnson left and Fuller took over “green dot” duties, that’s when he started to struggle. Johnson could take back the dot from Bobby Wagner and immediately assimilate back into L.A.’s defense—at a much lower cost than his 2021 price tag.
Johnson played in 32 of 33 possible games over the last two seasons, recording 162 tackles, four interceptions, and three forced fumbles.