LOS ANGELES -- Trumaine Johnson's irresolute situation had an interesting twist on Tuesday, the first day teams can negotiate with outside free agents, when a source confirmed to ESPN's Josina Anderson the Los Angeles Rams are listening to trade proposals for their primary cornerback.
NFL Network first reported the news.
The Rams recently slapped Johnson with the nonexclusive franchise tag for a second straight year, which he signed on Monday. It pays him $16.7424 million in 2017, more than any other NFL cornerback. Johnson became the first cornerback since Charles Woodson in 2004 to '05 to be franchised in back-to-back years, as the Rams basically felt they couldn't afford to let him slip away.
But it's also easy to see why they would listen to trade offers.
The Rams don't have a first-round pick, are paying a premium to a player who wasn't among the elite at his position in 2016 and have several other needs throughout their roster -- at wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and safety.
Trading Johnson could bring the Rams a much-needed high-round draft pick and give them the flexibility to address more needs. But the market for Johnson's services might be limited at that price, especially with the upcoming draft being so deep in defensive backs and some accomplished corners available on the free-agent market, most notably A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore.
After Johnson, the Rams are markedly thin at this position.
Their No. 2 corner is E.J. Gaines, who shined as a rookie in 2014 but has been limited to 10 starts over the past two years. They have a solid slot corner in Lamarcus Joyner, but he has at times looked vulnerable on the outside. And behind them are a sixth-round pick, Blake Countess, and a couple of undrafted free agents in Troy Hill and Mike Jordan. Gaines, Joyner, Hill and Jordan are all 5 feet 10 or shorter.
The Rams have until July 15 to negotiate a long-term contract with Johnson. But Rams general manager Les Snead indicated from the scouting combine last week that the team would probably hold off on those discussions until after OTAs to see whether Johnson is a fit under the system of new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
One potential landing spot for Johnson could be the Cleveland Browns, who are flush with salary cap space and draft picks. Gregg Williams, Johnson's defensive coordinator the past three years, joined the Browns this offseason.
Dennard Wilson, Johnson's position coach with the Rams, is now with the New York Jets, who have a need at corner and money to spend. But the Jets may be gun shy after spending too much money on an aging Darrelle Revis last year. The New Orleans Saints are prioritizing corner and also have money to spend, but it remains to be seen if they're willing to pay so much for Johnson.
With Johnson franchised, the Rams have about $20 million remaining in salary cap space.