John Johnson

Rams To Bring Back S John Johnson

John Johnson was released by the Browns in March, marking an end to his tenure with his second career team. A reunion with his first is now in order. The veteran safety has agreed to a one-year deal which will return him to the Rams (Twitter link via ESPN’s Jeremey Fowler). It is a veteran minimum pact worth $1.08MM, per Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic (subscription required).

Johnson spent his first four seasons in Los Angeles, quickly establishing himself as a key member of the team’s secondary. He started 48 of his 54 games with the Rams, and played every snap of the 2020 season. That made him a hot commodity on the open market when he reached free agency, and he arrived in Cleveland with plenty of expectations.

The Boston College product signed a three-year, $33.75MM with the Browns in 2021, and provided playmaking in his debut season. Johnson recorded three interceptions and five pass breakups while remaining a full-time starter. Things did not go as well last year, though, one in which he was moved closer to the line of scrimmage. That decision resulted in a 100-tackle campaign for the third time in his career, but only one interception and a career-worst passer rating allowed in coverage (82.8).

The Browns saved $9.75MM by designating Johnson as a post-June 1 release, something which came about after it was clear they would look to trade him in a cost-shedding move. Cleveland signed Juan Thornhill and Rodney McLeod in free agency to work alongside incumbent Grant Delpit on the backend. Thornhill in particular will be counted on to replace Johnson’s production.

The Rams have a number of relatively inexperienced options at the safety position (among many others after embracing a youth movement this offseason). Jordan Fuller can be expected to once again shoulder a starting role after being limited to just three games last year, but Johnson could find himself alongside the former sixth-rounder with the first-team defense if he can regain his previous Los Angeles form. Doing so would help the Rams improve on their highly disappointing performance in 2022 while boosting his free agent stock ahead of next offseason in the process.

Browns Release DE Jadeveon Clowney

For the fifth-straight offseason, Jadeveon Clowney is on the market. The Browns announced that they’ve released the defensive end.

After joining the Browns for the 2021 season, Clowney re-signed with the organization last offseason. While that contract technically featured some future seasons, the Browns would have had to commit more than $40MM to the defensive end if he was still on the roster on Friday. As a result, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets that Clowney’s second contract with the organization was always intended to be a one-year deal.

The former first-overall pick helped rehabilitate his image in 2021 following a disappointing, zero-sack performance with the Titans in 2020. Clowney started all 14 of his appearances for Cleveland in 2021, with his nine sacks proving to be his best mark since the 2018 campaign.

However, things slightly went down hill in 2022. Clowney wasn’t nearly as productive in his 12 games (10 starts), collecting only a pair of sacks and four QB hits, his lowest total in that latter mark since his four-game rookie campaign. Further, after publicly questioning his playing time and hinting that he wouldn’t be back in Cleveland for the 2023 campaign, Clowney was sent home by the organization and was inactive for the season finale. The defensive lineman later apologized for his comments, but it seemed pretty clear that Clowney’s stint in Cleveland had all but come to an end.

Still, considering Clowney’s pedigree, there’s a solid chance he finds another gig this offseason. Despite his numbers being down, Clowney still finished as Pro Football Focus’ 27th edge rusher (among 119 qualifiers), with the site giving him a particularly high grade for his running defense.

Meanwhile, the Browns also officially announced that they’ve released safety John Johnson. We heard back in February that the Browns were planning to part ways with the veteran.

Browns To Part Ways With S John Johnson; Team Eyeing Jessie Bates?

The Browns made a significant addition to their secondary when they signed safety John Johnson as a free agent in 2021. His time in Cleveland is coming to an end, however. Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports that Cleveland will release him at the onset of free agency in March unless a trade partner can be found before then (Twitter link).

Johnson, 27, inked a three-year, $33.75MM contract in 2021 after a productive start to his career with the Rams. He was arguably the top safety on the market that offseason, but reportedly took less money to come to Cleveland. That reflected the optimism surrounding the team at that time, but still led to high expectations given the Browns’ investment in Johnson to solidify their backend.

Johnson had a strong 2021 campaign, recording three interceptions and five pass deflections. He also posted career-best numbers in terms of coverage statistics, allowing an opposing passer rating of 70.1. Things went differently this past season, one in which the former third-rounder moved closer to the line of scrimmage while remaining a full-time starter. He eclipsed the 100-tackle mark for the third time in his career, but totaled just one interception.

Johnson is due to carry a cap hit of $13.5MM this season, making him a logical candidate for a cost-cutting trade or release. The only way the Browns would see any savings by moving on from him, though, is they designated him a post-June 1 release. Assuming that takes place, Cleveland will save $9.75MM while incurring a dead cap charge of $3.75MM. Those savings could help them re-stock with a notable name.

Mary Kay Cabot of reports that the Browns “are expected to pursue” Bengals safety Jessie Bates in free agency. The 26-year-old has been with Cincinnati for all five years of his career, but the contentious negotiations which took place between he and the Bengals last offseason resulted in the franchise tag being used. That move, along with the team’s decision to draft Daxton Hill in the first round, point to Bates heading elsewhere this year. He will no doubt command a lucrative deal, but freeing up funds from Johnson’s deal will allow the Browns to at least be a contender to add more playmaking on defense.

Given his age and production, Johnson will himself likely have suitors on the open market, albeit at a reduced rate compared to his Browns deal. Cleveland, meanwhile, will be a team to watch if they become serious in their pursuit of Bates, one of the top defenders set to hit free agency.

NFL COVID List Updates: 12/20/21

A long list of players were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. We listed the players who landed on the list today, as well as those who were activated off the list:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: DE John Franklin-Myers, DB Sharrod Neasman

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Browns’ Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum Ruled Out

Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum weren’t able to test out of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols in time for today’s game (Twitter link via’s Tom Pelissero). With that, Nick Mullens is set to start for the Browns against the Raiders today.

[RELATED: Raiders-Browns Moved To Monday]

The Browns were able to activate safety John Johnson III from the list, but the bulk of their COVID-19 positive players from last week will be held out. To fill the roster, the Browns have elevated cornerbacks Brian Allen and Herb Miller, safeties Tedric Thompson and Jovante Moffatt, defensive end Joe Jackson, guard Hjalte Froholdt, and running back John Kelly for tonight’s game.

Without their top two QBs, the Browns will need a big day out of their running backs. Unfortunately, that group won’t include Kareem Hunt, who also finds himself on the COVID-19 list. Instead, they’ll look to Nick Chubb, who has 5.5 yards per carry on the year, and D’Ernest Johnson, the reserve who turned in a couple of impressive performances earlier this year.

John Johnson Turned Down More Money To Sign With Browns

The Browns added a big piece to their defense when they signed safety John Johnson last week, and they apparently faced steep competition for his services.

Johnson turned down “significantly more money” from another team to sign with the Browns, his agents told Mary Kay Cabot of He was clearly very excited about the prospect of playing for this upstart Browns team that is coming off their best season in decades. It’s a sign of how much the times have changed that players are now taking less money in order to sign with the Browns as a destination in free agency.

Imagine if someone had told you that a few years ago. Johnson signed a three-year, $33.75MM pact with the Browns that included $24MM guaranteed, and was arguably the top safety on the market after guys like Justin Simmons, Marcus Maye, and Marcus Williams all got franchise tagged by their respective teams.

Johnson’s AAV of $11.25MM has him as the eighth-highest paid safety in the NFL currently. Shortly before he signed with Cleveland we heard the Lions, Eagles, and Jaguars were pursuing him, so it’s possible it was one of those teams that offered him the bigger contract.

The Rams opted not to tag him for financial reasons, but Johnson has been a really good player since entering the league as a third-round pick in 2017. He played every snap for a Los Angeles defense that was best in the league last season, and won’t turn 26 until December. Johnson will start next to either 2020 second-round pick Grant Delpit or Ronnie Harrison in 2021.

Browns, S John Johnson Agree To Deal

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 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’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.

Lions, Eagles, Jaguars, Browns Pursuing S John Johnson

One of the top defenders on the market is safety John Johnson, and it sounds like there are a handful of teams hot on his tail. Johnson’s market is beginning to take shape, with the Lions, Eagles, Jaguars, and Browns all showing interest, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports hears (Twitter link).

Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL Radio followed up by tweeting that the Browns are expected to make a “strong effort” in their pursuit of Johnson. Marcus Williams, Justin Simmons, and Marcus Maye were franchise tagged by the Saints, Broncos, and Jets respectively, only ensuring a bigger payday for Johnson by making him arguably the top safety on the market.

The Rams opted not to tag Johnson for financial reasons, and it seems like moving on from Los Angeles might be likely at this point. Johnson was the only player to play every single snap for a Rams defense that was one of the best in the league last season.

The 2017 third-round pick became a starter as a rookie, and had four interceptions as a sophomore in 2018. Perhaps the most appealing part about him is that he’s only 25 and won’t turn 26 until December.

NFC West Rumors: Fitzgerald, Gould, Reed

Speculating about Larry Fitzgerald‘s future has become something of a holiday tradition over the past few seasons. The surefire Hall-of-Famer did say earlier this year that if the Cardinals were to win Super Bowl LV, he would ride off into the sunset, but Arizona’s hopes for its first Lombardi Trophy suffered a major blow in an upset loss to the 49ers last night.

So will Fitz be back in 2021? As Rachel Gossen of writes, head coach Kliff Kingsbury said he believes Fitzgerald could play for another four seasons, but Fitzgerald himself was noncommittal.

“I haven’t really given it much thought to be honest with you,” he said. Though Fitzgerald did add that it will be nice to have fans back in the stands when it’s safe, Kingsbury downplayed the notion that Fitzgerald would return just to receive a proper sendoff from the Cardinals’ faithful.

As we wait to see whether one of the best receivers in NFL history will call it a career, and as the Cards focus on keeping their fading playoff hopes alive, let’s round up a few more notes from the NFC West:

  • The 49ers have a big decision to make on kicker Robbie Gould this week. Per the four-year extension Gould signed in 2019, San Francisco has until January 2 to pick up an option that would guarantee $2.25MM of Gould’s $4.5MM 2021 salary. Gould had hit 90.5% of his field goal attempts heading into last night’s matchup with Arizona, but he missed two FGA’s and a PAT in a 20-12 win that could have been more decisive. However, head coach Kyle Shanahan said the performance will not impact the team’s decision on Gould’s contract. “You got to look at the body of work, and Robbie has been unbelievable,” Shanahan said (Twitter link via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area).
  • Claimed off waivers from the division-rival 49ers in August, Seahawks CB D.J. Reed has been a great find for Seattle. In eight games (six starts), Reed has lined up both in the slot and outside the numbers and has accumulated 49 tackles, two interceptions, and six passes defensed while yielding a modest 77.9 passer rating as the nearest defender (via NFL Next Gen stats). Though the 5-9 Reed does not fit the mold of the big-bodied specimens that Seattle generally prefers at the outside corner positions, Brady Henderson of thinks his presence could make the club more amenable to moving on from contract-year players Quinton Dunbar and Shaquill Griffin. Reed will be entering the final year of his rookie deal in 2021.
  • As Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic points out, the Rams would be about $26MM over the 2021 salary cap if the cap is decreased to $175MM as many expect. So while the club can certainly restructure the contracts of players like Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to create space, it will also have tough decisions to make on pending free agents. Rodrigue posits that, if DC Brandon Staley gets hired as a head coach, he may try to bring safety John Johnson and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd with him, though Los Angeles will doubtlessly prioritize re-ups with both players. Meanwhile, Rodrigue sees players like WR Josh Reynolds and TE Gerald Everett signing elsewhere this offseason.

Rams HC, GM Discuss Offseason

It’s been a busy 24 months for the Rams, and it’ll all culminate with a crucial 2020 offseason.

They’ve handed out a number of high-priced extensions to quarterback Jared Goff, defensive lineman Aaron Donald, and others, leading to only $21MM in cap space this year. The organization also traded their 2020 and 2012 first-rounders for Jalen Ramsey, leaving the team with reduced draft capital.

Plus, the organization is staring at a long list of impending unrestricted free agents. In other words, the Rams could look a bit different next season.

Head coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead spoke to ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry about some of their critical offseason decisions. The entire article is worth a read, but we snagged some of the notable soundbites below:

On if the front office has engaged in any trade talks:

McVay: “Usually, Aaron Donald is off the table. I think, to answer your question, I think you kind of know who are the guys that there’s not something that would be worth it, but those are ongoing conversations and I think we’re always open to being able to explore things that can upgrade us as a team.

“What we have done a nice job of is identifying those foundational pieces to try to build around.”

Snead: “This time of year, it is interesting. You get calls on a lot of players. There’s a new era, in that somebody may call and ask about your best player, which in the past, I don’t know that phone call would be made. … But usually the answer is ‘No.'”

On free agent left tackle Andrew Whitworth‘s potential return:

McVay: “We’re pretty confident. He still played a really high level last year. His impact isn’t exclusive to just playing the left tackle position.”

On free agent kicker Greg Zuerlein:

McVay: “He’s done so many things and he’s a great kicker and I think those established veterans are so important, especially when every time he takes the field, there’s points at stake, unless he’s kicking off. But we want to make sure we’re evaluating the guys in the draft and then we’re going to have free agency.”

On potential extensions for receiver Cooper Kupp and safety John Johnson:

Snead: “The goal would be, let’s say guys like those two, if we do want them to get back, it would be great to have that box checked. What we have to do now is, because we have, I call it more urgent guys whose contracts actually expire, get through that process first and then move on to — I don’t want to call them less urgent — but less urgent than the players whose contracts are expiring.”

On potentially franchising free agent linebackers Dante Fowler or Cory Littleton:

Snead: “All options are on the table.”