Entering the legal tampering period in need of defensive talent, the Browns are making a big move early. They agreed to terms with longtime Rams safety starter John Johnson, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
With Justin Simmons, Marcus Maye and Marcus Williams receiving the franchise tag, Johnson moved up the list of available safeties. The Browns will add the former third-round pick on a three-year, $33.75MM contract, according to NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter). Johnson will receive $24MM guaranteed in the deal.
The Rams have lost a host of key role players over the past three offseasons, with the team having made a few splashy moves. Johnson follows the likes of Rodger Saffold, Lamarcus Joyner and Cory Littleton out of Los Angeles. He joined them as a Super Bowl LIII starter and had been a Rams first-stringer since his 2017 rookie season. Being well over the cap, the Rams will lose Johnson to a team with in a better financial spot.
The Browns ranked 25th in defensive DVOA last season. They lost second-round pick Grant Delpit to injury and used multiple stopgaps at the position. This represents a much bigger investment than Cleveland made at the spot last year. Johnson will join Denzel Ward as high-end Browns secondary cogs. Pro Football Focus has regarded Johnson highly for much of his career; he ranked as PFF’s No. 3 overall safety in 2020.
Despite Johnson’s status as a high-end free agent, his contract will not quite hit the top tier among safeties. It is outside the top five at the position in both AAV and guaranteed money. But the Browns will have a key piece to team with both Delpit and Ronnie Harrison under Joe Woods going forward.
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