INDIANAPOLIS -- Barring a long-term contract that does not seem very feasible at this point, Trumaine Johnson will wind up making about $30 million over the course of two years, an exorbitant amount of money that speaks to the desperate state of the Los Angeles Rams' secondary.
The Rams opted to put the nonexclusive franchise tag on Johnson for a second straight year on Wednesday, a decision that was finalized about four hours before the deadline. Johnson made $13.952 million under the tag last year and will get a 20 percent increase for 2017, raising his salary to about $16.75 million and making him the NFL's highest-paid cornerback.
There's some thought within the Rams that this may be the best course of action. It's a high number, but it is only a one-year contract. It allows them to see if Johnson can fit in new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' system before committing to a long-term contract. But it also cripples their plans for this offseason. It leaves them with something in the neighborhood of $20 million in salary-cap space, with a lot of holes at receiver, a desire to reshape their offensive line and several other needs on defense -- at linebacker, at corner and at safety, where T.J. McDonald is slated for free agency.
The Rams simply couldn't afford to lose Johnson.
They already lost their former No. 1 corner, Janoris Jenkins, last offseason, when he left to sign a five-year, $62.5 million contract with the Giants. And they didn't have much depth behind Johnson this year. Their No. 2 corner, E.J. Gaines, shined as a rookie in 2014 but missed all of 2015 with a serious foot injury and was limited to 10 starts with smaller ailments in 2016. They have a solid slot corner in Lamarcus Joyner, but he was vulnerable at times on the outside. Behind them are Troy Hill and Mike Jordan, a couple of undrafted free agents, and Blake Countess, a sixth-round pick.
None of them really come close to matching Johnson's ability.
Johnson -- the first corner to be tagged in back-to-back years since Charles Woodson from 2004 to '05 -- has surrendered only 10 touchdowns and a passer rating of 72.6 over the course of 338 targets throughout his career, according to Pro Football Focus. He intercepted 15 passes from 2012 to '15, tied for fourth in the NFL during that time. But his production slipped this past season, his first as the primary corner. Johnson's interception total dropped from seven in 2015 to one in 2016. Among the 81 corners who were on the field for at least 50 percent of defensive snaps, he ranked 37th in snaps per catch (11) and 34th in QB rating when targeted (89.4).
He wasn't elite, but he was good enough that the Rams felt they couldn't afford to lose him.