THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- It was April, weeks before the draft, and the New Orleans Saints were willing to trade what ESPN's Adam Schefter believed to be a second-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for their primary cornerback, Trumaine Johnson. But Johnson wanted so badly to remain with the Rams that he was unwilling to agree to a long-term deal elsewhere, a circumstance that probably caused the trade to fall apart.
"I wanted to be here," Johnson said Tuesday, while confirming the initial report. "I wanted to continue to be here with my teammates, and continue to build chemistry with my teammates and new coaches. I started with the Rams and I wanted to be here with the Rams; my loyalty's with them. But things didn't happen."
The Rams ultimately never had much interest in signing Johnson long term, regardless of his desire to stay beyond 2017. They preferred to keep him on his second franchise tag, one that will pay him $16.74 million, rather than give him a contract similar to that of, say, Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots corner who recently signed a five-year, $65 million deal with $40 million guaranteed.
Johnson called the development "frustrating," but hasn't shown it. Rams head coach Sean McVay went out of his way to praise Johnson's attitude recently, saying he has "done a great job this whole training camp. Day in and day out, he's consistently brought it."
When he arrived for camp, Johnson -- a third-round pick by the Rams in 2012 -- expressed disappointment with his contract situation and stated what had become obvious: "I believe the Rams are going in a different direction at the end of the season."
But teammates and coaches have seen an engaged, motivated, team-oriented Johnson ever since.
"Just controlling what I can control, being positive through it all," Johnson said. "The biggest thing was that I wanted a big contract. It didn't happen. But I wasn't going to be sad or mad about it. Just looking at the big picture, I want to win games. And that's my overall goal right now."
Johnson, who intercepted Raiders quarterback Derek Carr early in Saturday's preseason game, loves playing what he called an "attacking" defense under Wade Phillips and has been impressed with the talent of the new defensive backs. He also understands Aaron Donald, the star defensive tackle who continues to hold out while in search of a more lucrative contract.
"We'd love to have him here, but at the same time, I know what he's going through," Johnson said. "I've been through it. It's a business at the end of the day. He's a very valuable player. Hopefully he gets what he's asking for."
Johnson, 27, compiled 15 interceptions from 2012-15, tied for fourth most in the NFL during that time. He only intercepted one pass in 14 games last season, his first as the Rams' primary corner, but Pro Football Focus still graded him 25th among 110 players at his position. He's a big corner, at 6-foot-2 and 213 pounds. And the only outside corners the Rams have under contract beyond this season are Kayvon Webster, Mike Jordan and Troy Hill, who have a combined eight NFL starts between them.
Maybe -- just maybe -- the Rams and Johnson can revisit this whole extension thing after the season.
"I'm not in the future right now," Johnson said. "I'm just waiting until it happens, at the end of the year. Go from there."