Like Patrick, the middle linebacker is set to earn $3.384MM on the tender. Only one restricted free agent received a first-round tender this year — Rams cornerback Darious Williams — but several commanded the second-round price. Johnson is now signed for the 2021 season. Barring an extension, he will play for the tender amount. He is due to be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
An unusual RFA, seeing as he will turn 30 later this year, Johnson has been a starter in Denver for most of Vic Fangio‘s two-season tenure. The Broncos signed the ex-Tennessee Volunteer in 2018 but did not deploy him as a starter until October 2019. Johnson immediately impacted the team’s run defense and kept the first-string gig throughout 2020 as well. Johnson made 124 tackles and forced two fumbles last season. Pro Football Focus viewed the 255-pound defender as a top-25 off-ball linebacker in 2020.
This figures to be a notable stretch for the Broncos at linebacker. After parting ways with Brandon Marshall in 2019, the Broncos have made Johnson and Josey Jewell their primary off-ball ‘backers. Both are going into contract years. The team also drafted Ohio State’s Baron Browning in Round 3 this year, but it would make sense if either Jewell or Johnson emerged on the team’s extension radar.
Johnson’s late NFL start may well work against him regarding earning potential, but a solid 2021 season would put him in line for at least a decent medium-length deal — be it via a Broncos extension or as an unrestricted free agent next year.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.