Trumaine Johnson

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Gordon

A few notes from the AFC North:

  • Financial details on Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin‘s newly minted contract extension are unavailable, but the belief is that he’s close behind the NFL’s highest-paid sideline leaders – New England’s Bill Belichick and Seattle’s Pete Carroll – in annual salary, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. While one of Tomlin’s superiors, general manager Kevin Colbert, could be in line for an extension of his own, owner Art Rooney II suggested Thursday that there’s no timetable to reach an agreement. “They’re not tied together in any sort of timing situation,” Rooney said. “I hate to speculate on contracts because they get done when they get done.”
  • A recent CBS Sports report suggested that Pittsburgh is interested in trading for Rams franchise-tagged cornerback Trumaine Johnson, but “several Steelers sources laughed at that premise,” Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette writes. At $16.74MM, Johnson is the league’s top-paid corner. Meanwhile, the Steelers’ entire cornerback corps only makes $12.49MM.
  • When asked Thursday about a potential reinstatement for suspended Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, commissioner Roger Goodell said it is “not under active consideration to my knowledge…at least it hasn’t gotten to my desk yet” (Twitter link via Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer). The 26-year-old was denied reinstatement by the league office in May and informed that he could not reapply again until the fall, so Goodell’s update here in August doesn’t mean a whole lot.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Latest On Aaron Donald, Trumaine Johnson

The Rams have made a substantial extension offer to Aaron Donald, Les Snead said (via Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com).

Donald remains a camp holdout, and the most recent news coming out of Los Angeles hasn’t moved the needle much on a re-up for the dominant interior defender. Dialogue between the Rams and Donald is ongoing, however, Snead said.

We want Aaron here and we want to make him a Ram for a long time,” Sean McVay said, via La Canfora, “and in the little bit of time I’ve spent with him it doesn’t take long to see what kind of a special player he is, based on the tape, and what kind of person he is and how much he loves the game of football and his teammates. That’s why we want to get it figured out.”

The 26-year-old defender is due just $3.225MM this season. That number rises to $6.892MM in 2018 because of the fifth-year option. But Donald, a two-time All-Pro, has obviously proven he’s worth top-market money. Ndamukong Suh‘s six-year, $114MM — negotiated while Suh was a UFA — remains the standard for interior defenders. Von Miller‘s six-year, $114.6MM deal represents the high for all defensive players.

La Canfora added the Rams are open to making a trade as well. Shedding Trumaine Johnson‘s $16.742MM franchise tag salary would be an avenue to clear cap space — the Rams hold just $3.78MM at present — and La Canfora reports the Steelers are among the teams inquiring about a possible deal for the sixth-year corner. While that wouldn’t exactly be in Pittsburgh’s draft-centric nature, and La Canfora doubts L.A. would pull the trigger after the Gaines deal, Johnson has proven himself to be an upper-echelon corner. The Steelers return their cornerback trio from last season in Ross Cockrell, 2016 first-rounder Artie Burns and William Gay

NFC Notes: T. Johnson, Elliott, Martin

Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson is clearly disappointed that he did not receive a long-term deal and that he will be play out the season under his second consecutive franchise tag, as Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com writes. Johnson said his focus is now on the field, but he added, “I wanted [a multi-year deal]; I wanted it big time. I believe the Rams are going in a different direction at the end of the season. It’s out of my control.” 

While it is impossible to say for certain whether the Rams will move on from Johnson at the end of the year, it does seem as if that will be the case. Indeed, as Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports tweets, Los Angeles put the tag on Johnson because it wanted to see what new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips could do with him. If Phillips had not joined the club, Johnson would already be elsewhere, per Robinson, and even with Phillips on the sidelines, it is difficult to see Johnson elevating his play enough to convince the Rams to give him elite CB money on a long-term basis.

Let’s take a look at a few more rumors from the NFC:

  • Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said embattled running back Ezekiel Elliott met with NFL officials in New York last month to discuss the domestic violence allegations levied against him. While Jones does not have a timeframe for the league’s much-anticipated decision, he did say “everything is in place” for that decision, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com writes.
  • We heard earlier this month that the Buccaneers are well-stocked at running back even without Doug Martin, who will miss the first three games of the 2017 season due to suspension. And, as Dan Graziano of ESPN.com writes, GM Jason Licht is so pleased with his stable of RBs that he says Martin may not be the starter when he returns in Week 4. That may just be GM-speak to give Martin a little extra motivation, but it underscores how comfortable Tampa Bay is with its backs, who do offer a nice variety of skill-sets.
  • New Saints offensive lineman Orlando Franklin started all 16 games for the Chargers last year after an injury-plagued 2015, but he graded out as one of the seven worst qualified guards in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. However, Joel Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate writes that Franklin had knee surgery in January, and Franklin says he was never fully healthy during his time in San Diego. This year, he expects to return to the form he displayed during his best seasons in Denver.
  • The Lions were the first team to reach out to LB Zach Orr when he announced his intention to come out of retirement, but Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press says Detroit is unlikely to sign Orr, which is consistent with a report we heard yesterday afternoon.
  • Eagles rookie CB Randall Goforth has suffered a season-ending ACL tear, per Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter). Goforth, a UDFA from UCLA, had a real chance for playing time given Philadelphia’s shaky cornerback situation.
  • Giants rookie safety Jadar Johnson, whom the team signed as a UDFA this year, has decided to retire from football, as Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network tweets.
  • Redskins RB Keith Marshall tore his right patella tendon and will miss the 2017 season, per John Keim of ESPN.com. Washington selected Marshall in the seventh round of the 2016 draft, but he missed the entire 2016 season with an elbow injury. He now will have to wait until 2018 to get his NFL career on track.

No Deal For Cousins, Bell, Johnson

The franchise tender extension deadline has come and gone. With no deals struck for the three players in question, we now know that Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, and Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson will be playing out the 2017 season on one-year deals. Trumaine Johnson (vertical)

We’ve believed this to be the most expected outcome for a while now, though Bell was the most likely to sign of the trio. Although Bell might have liked to sign a multi-year deal before this afternoon’s deadline, all three players are still in great shape for the coming year. Cousins will make roughly $24MM on his second straight franchise tag. Johnson will make $16MM on his second time on the tender. Bell will collect a $12MM+ salary on his first ever franchise tag.

The Redskins, Steelers, and Rams can all use the franchise tag on these players next year, but the price would be uncomfortably high in the cases of Bell ($14MM) and Cousins ($34MM) and downright outlandish in the case of Johnson ($20MM). If all goes right for them in 2017, they’re all in position to get paid in 2018 and beyond, one way or another.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Deadline Approaching For Cousins, Bell, Johnson

A major deadline is fast approaching for Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, and Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson. If the three franchise-tagged players do not sign an extension with their respective clubs by 4pm ET/3pm CT, they will play out the season on a one-year tender and will not be able to reignite long-term talks until January. Le'Veon Bell (vertical)

So far, there hasn’t been significant movement towards a deal for any of the three players in question, though Bell is more likely to sign a multi-year pact than the other two. Then again, after last year’s deadline brought us a surprise accord between the Jets and Muhammad Wilkerson, nothing can be ruled out.

The Redskins have slowly upped their offer to Cousins over the last year, but a major gulf still divides the two parties. Cousins’ agent is said to be seeking $24MM annually on a new deal, a number reflective of his ~$24MM tender for 2017. The Redskins, meanwhile, have only offered $20MM per season on a five-year pact. The proposal, which was made back in May, only truly guarantees the first two years for Cousins, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero. When considering the gap in dollars and the possibility that Cousins would rather be somewhere else long-term, it seems likely that the QB will play out the year on his tender.

On Monday morning, we heard that there was nothing imminent between the Steelers and Bell. Still, a long-term deal makes plenty of sense for both sides. Bell’s camp is aware of the injury risk that running backs carry and they would certainly forego some upside in favor of security. The Steelers, on the other hand, do not want to chance having to cuff Bell with a one-year, $14MM repeat franchise tender next offseason. Even though there hasn’t been a lot of reported progress on a deal in recent weeks, this one feels too logical not to happen.

On the flipside, it would be a shock to see the Rams and Johnson shake hands on a deal this afternoon. Johnson believes that he could be paid like a top cornerback on the open market next spring and unless he turns in a historically spectacular season, there’s little chance that the Rams will tag him for a third straight year at $20MM. Instead, Johnson will happily play out the year for $16.742MM and worry about his future next offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Rams, Elliott, Wentz, Redskins

There’s still no movement toward a deal between the Rams and cornerback Trumaine Johnson, per ESPN.com’s Alden Gonzalez, who’s the latest to report that he’ll play 2017 under the franchise tag. Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson relayed earlier this week that no agreement would come to fruition by Monday’s deadline, meaning Johnson will play the season as the NFL’s highest-paid corner. Johnson will earn $16.742MM in his second straight year as the Rams’ franchise player, and the likelihood is that he’ll test the free agent market next offseason. Tagging him again isn’t going to happen because doing so would cost the Rams $24.1MM.
Elsewhere around the NFC…
  • The NFL needs to make a decision on whether to suspend Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott as soon as possible, opines Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. In doing so, he league would ensure that the internal appeals process would be resolved by Week 1, reasons Florio. Elliott is bracing for a season-opening ban, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, and Florio wonders if the league leaked that information to Schefter in order to gauge the opinions of both the public and Jerry Jones. The Cowboys owner has made it known to NFL higher-ups that he won’t react kindly if the league suspends one of his stars without ample justification, reports Florio. Given the power Jones has, the NFL “needs to placate” him, writes Florio; at the same time, the league’s also in a difficult situation because it can’t afford to screw up another ruling involving domestic violence.
  • The Eagles want to “take a little bit off” second-year quarterback Carson Wentz‘s plate this season, head coach Doug Pederson told Comcast SportsNet’s John Clark this week (via Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com). Pederson believes that the offseason additions of wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and running back LeGarrette Blount should make life easier for Wentz, who didn’t have enough help at the skill positions last season and attempted 607 passes – the second-highest rookie total in NFL history, notes Frank. “Everything doesn’t have to fall on Carson’s shoulders and I think sometimes a little bit last year he felt that way and things had to fall his way a little bit to make a play and I don’t think we have to do that this year,” said Pederson.
  • Redskins safety DeAngelo Hall agreed to a pay cut last month, but he’ll still enter training camp in danger of losing his roster spot, suggests Rich Tandler of CSN Mid-Atlantic. A couple of other veteran safeties, Will Blackmon and Josh Evans, are also on the bubble, per Tandler. Injuries limited Hall to just 17 games over the previous three seasons, including a mere three in 2016. Conversely, staying healthy hasn’t been a problem for the 32-year-old Blackmon, who has made 30 of 32 appearances and logged 16 starts since joining the Redskins prior to 2015. Evans, a regular for the Jaguars from 2013-15, was on and off Washington’s roster last year and only played two games.

Poll: Which Players Will Sign By Deadline?

With five days to go until the deadline for teams to sign franchise tagged players to extensions, there apparently hasn’t been a ton of progress for any of the three players in question. Still, we’ve had some mid-July surprises in the past, like last year’s last minute extension for Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. Here’s a quick refresher on where things stand for Kirk Cousins, Le’Veon Bell, and Trumaine Johnson:

Kirk Cousins

There has been no movement towards a deal for the Redskins and Cousins, and both sides are apparently alright with that. You know the deal by now: Cousins is looking at a $24MM salary in 2017 and the Redskins will have to give him a tender worth at least $28MM to keep him away from unrestricted free agency next season. Cousins is confident in his abilities and eager to push the market for quarterbacks, so he is not all that inclined to sign a multi-year deal. Kirk Cousins

Cousins’ agent probably won’t consider any offer with less than $52MM guaranteed. If his camp really wants to drive a hard bargain, it will insist on a minimum $58MM in the bag since that factors in the value a third franchise tag in 2018 ($34MM) rather than the $28MM transition tag, which would only give Washington the first right of refusal.

Cousins, like any player in extension talks, must weigh the benefit of cost certainty versus the upside of the open market. But, with the way quarterbacks get paid in the NFL, he is looking at a high floor. Cousins is not considered to be a top five QB, but if he were to put pen to paper today, he would be the highest-paid player in the NFL – at least for a couple of weeks. Even if Cousins has a mild regression in 2017, he’ll still be looking at either a one-year, ~$30MM deal in Washington or a $100MM+ deal in free agency. In order for the soon-to-be 29-year-old to sign, he’ll either have to be wowed by an offer or he’ll have to catch a case of cold feet in the coming days.

Le’Veon Bell

Le'Veon Bell (vertical)Bell, by any measure, is one of the very best running backs in the NFL. In a suspension-shortened 2016 season, Bell earned his second career trip to the Pro Bowl as he ran for 1,268 yrds off of 261 carries, mirroring a career-high of 4.9 yards per attempt. He also added 75 receptions for 616 yards. When averaged out on a per-game basis, his 2016 numbers actually bested his 2014 campaign, a season in which he was a First-Team All-Pro selection. The advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus had Bell ranked as the third best RB in the league last season, behind only Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson.

While there has been talk about Cousins being less-than-thrilled with Redskins management, Bell has been open about wanting to stay in Pittsburgh. The feeling is mutual as the Steelers want to keep in him in the fold for the long term. So, what’s the holdup?

Bell is probably seeking to overtake Bills star LeSean McCoy as the highest-paid running back in the NFL. The Steelers are probably willing to oblige, but, as we all know, there’s a difference between becoming the market-setter in terms of years/dollars and the true value of a deal. If Bell wants to sign a five-year deal worth more than $40MM, odds are that he could do that right now. What he’s really after, however, are substantial guarantees with significant cash flow in the first two years of the deal.

Running backs are always at a high risk of injury and teams are typically adversed to paying out real dollars for them on multi-year deals, even if the cases of exceptional players like Bell. The Steelers are hoping to find a happy medium with Bell in the coming days since his $12MM price tag for this year is high and a potential $14MM tag for 2018 is spit take worthy.

Trumaine Johnson

Like Cousins, this is the second year in a row that Johnson has been hit with the franchise tag. Where the situations differ is that there is zero chance the Rams will apply the tag to Johnson for a third year in a row. If Johnson plays out the year on his one-year, $17MM tender, he’ll hit unrestricted free agency at the age of 28 because there’s virtually no chance that the Rams would tag him at upwards of $24MM in 2018. Trumaine Johnson (vertical)

Johnson has yet to establish himself as an elite cornerback, but this would be the time to do it as he enters a contract year. The Rams’ strong front seven should keep opposing quarterbacks under duress, allowing Johnson to swarm receivers on immature routes. It appears that Johnson has little incentive to sign a long-term deal here, unless the Rams are willing to make a cap-crippling commitment.

On Tuesday, it was reported that nothing is currently in the works for Johnson and the Rams. Things will have to change dramatically in order for Johnson to be committed to L.A. beyond 2017.

Take your pick

Which of these three players, if any, will sign extensions before the deadline on Monday? Cast your vote below and back up your choice in the comment section.

Extra Points: Strike, Rams, Relocation

Contracts are guaranteed in the NBA, where even mediocre players are capable of landing mega-deals, leading some NFLers to publicly express displeasure with the fact that their league’s deals are non-guaranteed. While discussing that issue Wednesday, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman offered a possible solution, albeit a controversial one.

“If we want as the NFL, as a union, to get anything done, players have to be willing to strike,” Sherman told ESPN’s Jalen Rose. “That’s the thing that guys need to 100 percent realize. You’re going to have to miss games, you’re going to have to lose some money if you’re willing to make the point, because that’s how MLB and NBA got it done. They missed games, they struck, they flexed every bit of power they had, and it was awesome. It worked out for them.”

NFL players haven’t gone on strike since 1987, though there was a brief lockout in 2011. With the collective bargaining agreement the owners and players negotiated then set to expire after the 2020 season, more labor strife is seemingly brewing. Back in February, months before Sherman’s strike recommendation, union boss DeMaurice Smith shot down the possibility of extending the CBA, and the players hadn’t given him permission as of last month to begin talks with the league on a new agreement.

More from around the league:

  • While Sherman and others aren’t thrilled with the league’s current financial setup, one player who has done well in the system is Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson, writes Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The Rams placed the franchise tag on Johnson both last year and this offseason, putting him in position to collect $30.672MM in guaranteed money from 2016-17. To hit Johnson with the franchise tag again next winter would cost the Rams an untenable $24.1MM, so he’ll reach the open market at the age of 28 and have an opportunity to cash in on a long-term contract.
  • Thanks to the relocations of the Rams, Chargers and Raiders, the league’s other 29 teams will each receive a gross sum of $55.2MM over an 11-year span, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN. The two Los Angeles teams, the Rams and Chargers, will each pay a $645MM relocation fee from December 2019 to December 2028, while the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders will owe $378MM. They won’t have to begin paying until the year they actually move to Vegas.
  • Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan is likely to open the season on the physically unable to perform list, suggests Chris Boden of CSN Chicago. Trevathan ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee last November, forcing him to sit out the Bears’ final five games of 2016, and he’ll miss their first six contests this year if he goes on the PUP list. The former Bronco is entering the second season of the four-year, $24.5MM pact he signed with Chicago in March 2016.

Latest On Rams, Trumaine Johnson

They say that deadlines spur action but, so far, the impending July 17 deadline for franchise-tagged players has not brought about progress for the Rams and cornerback Trumaine Johnson. Once again, we have word that a contract extension for Johnson is not in the works (Twitter link via Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports). Trumaine Johnson

Barring a surprising last-minute change, Johnson will play out the 2017 season on his one-year, $16.742MM franchise tender. Because this is the second consecutive year in which he has been tagged, Johnson’s salary is 20% higher than last year’s, giving him the top salary of any cornerback in the NFL.

Johnson is no slouch, but it’s hard to argue that the 27-year-old should be the highest compensated CB in the league. The Rams know this, but they also felt that they had little choice when it came time to make their big decision this offseason. If the Rams allowed Johnson to test the free agency waters, they would have risked losing two starting cornerbacks in two years.

Meanwhile, Johnson seems very willing to play out the season at his lucrative salary and cash in as a free agent next offseason. Right now, 14 cornerbacks in the NFL are averaging $10MM or more per year. If Johnson plays roughly as well as he has in the last two years, $10MM/ year seems like his worst-case scenario, given that he’ll be entering his age-28 season. If Johnson can take a step forward and establish himself as a shutdown corner, then he just might put himself in the top five at the position.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams, Johnson Won’t Sign Long-Term Deal

Last week, we heard that the odds of an extension for the Rams and Trumaine Johnson are “extremely slim.” Now, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com hears (on Twitter) that there is “nothing close” between the two parties and flatly says that “no long-term deal will get done.” Trumaine Johnson (vertical)

[RELATED: NFL Pushes Back Deadline To Sign Franchise Players]

Without a new deal, Johnson will play out the 2017 season on his one-year, $16.742MM franchise tender. This is the second straight year that the Rams have used the franchise tag on Johnson, though their actions have made it clear that they do not see him as a franchise player. The Rams seriously considered trading Johnson this offseason, though talks with teams like the Browns and Saints did not yield the kind of offers that they were seeking.

Johnson’s $16.742MM salary currently has him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL on a per-year basis. After a season in which he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 26th-best cornerback, one could argue that he’s drastically overpaid. The Rams probably weren’t crazy about that price tag, but they were also unwilling to lose a starting cornerback for the second consecutive offseason. Last year, the Rams franchised Johnson and allowed Janoris Jenkins to sign with the Giants in free agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.