Sometimes you can go home again. Over the years, the Rams‘ top-heavy roster building came at the cost of losing quality homegrown talent because they could no longer afford them after their rookie contract expires. As happy as fans are with that model ultimately yielding a Super Bowl there was always a sense of longing when one of those guys like Morgan Fox or Sebastian Joseph-Day flourish in new environments.
One of the biggest names to depart for much more lucrative pastures was John Johnson. He left after the 2020 season to sign a three-year $33.75 million dollar deal with the Cleveland Browns. After two seasons Johnson was an unfortunate cap casualty because the Browns presumably needed to allocate money to more problematic areas of the team. Cleveland’s loss is the Rams’ gain as John Johnson has returned to Los Angeles on a one-year deal (first reported by media maven Jake Ellenbogen).
John Johnson returning to LA is a mutual boon for both parties. Johnson gets to return to a system he absolutely thrived in during the first four years of his career and the Rams get a grown-up in the safety room opposite Jordan Fuller.
What John Johnson Brings To The Rams Defense
The Rams’ defense is super young. While that’s by design given both the Rams’ desire to reassess their roster and the gargantuan amount of dead cap preventing them from loading up with more stars. Johnson curiously didn’t get picked up during free agency despite amassing 492 total tackles, 41 pass deflections, and 12 picks in his career.
He’s reliable in coverage and is essentially durable. He also brings exemplary leadership capabilities and playoff experience (including making the decisive interception in the 2018 NFC Championship), that a young defense could greatly benefit from now that Jalen Ramsey is no longer a member of the secondary. His presence will benefit the rest of the defense because now Raheem Morris can implement more advanced coverage schemes knowing he now has two safeties that are well-versed in his defense.
Jordan Fuller is, himself, in a contract year and has dealt with nagging injuries the last two years, and reuniting him with Johnson gives him a chance to reach the heights he reached in his rookie year. Whether the Rams decide to keep him or not, having Johnson in the backfield with him is much more beneficial to him than having largely unproven commodities such as Quentin Lake or Russ Yeast starting beside him.
Having two veteran safeties also benefits Cobie Durant who is expected to take over the STAR role now that Ramsey is gone. The Rams gave him a veteran corner in Ahkello Witherspoon earlier this year but now that Johnson is back in the fold, it alleviates the pressure on Durant who doesn’t have to completely shoulder the burden of taking over for Ramsey. With another veteran in the secondary, the Rams very young pass rush also has a better chance to succeed as well. The Rams’ defense wasn’t projected to make an impact this year by the talking head community but now that they have brought in John Johnson, there’s a chance they will take people by surprise.