The Los Angeles Rams will have some difficult decision to make in free agency, especially when it comes to safety John Johnson III. They could let him walk and get a comp pick next year for him. Signing him to a back-loaded extension could be an option depending on how much cap space they can open up this year. They could decide to use the franchise tag on Johnson. And lastly, they could use the tag and then go ahead and trade him to another team.
There are benefits to all the possible scenarios with Johnson. The Los Angeles Rams have done a good job with their comp picks in the past with Les Snead and have benefitted because of them. Signing Johnson III to a long-term extension would be a benefit to the defense given the leadership aspect that he brings. Franchising Johnson III would allow the Rams to pay him below his market value for a year. It also allows for the Rams to take a year and see if the salary cap goes up next season. The final option might be the most interesting, tagging Johnson and then trading him could allow them to get a third-round pick this year or another asset that they need.
If the Rams decide to indeed tag John Johnson III, it would incur an $11M hit to the salary cap. This is much lower than his projected $14M number or the $15M franchise tag number for Floyd. The Rams haven’t used the franchise tag since using it on Trumaine Johnson in back-to-back years.
While the Rams don’t have a lot of cap space, they also don’t have a lot of draft capital. If the Rams are looking for an immediate return on Johnson III, a tag-and-trade makes the most sense. The Rams can tag Johnson and then trade him for picks this season.
The Rams safety will have a large market in free agency, therefore, by tagging Johnson, the team could also have a large trade market. Snead could opt to wait a year for a comp pick, or hope to get an earlier third round selection or maybe even a second-rounder for Johnson this season in a trade.
By doing this, the Rams also don’t take on any of that cap space this season. The money would all go to the new team and the new team would be able to sign Johnson to an extension. The Rams would also be able to control where Johnson ends up.
The Rams would take on some risk in this scenario. There is no guarantee that they find a trade partner. There is also no guarantee that they would get the same return as a comp pick. This scenario gives the Rams some power. However, they also lose some as teams know that the Rams would be trying to trade the safety. If unable to find a trade partner, the Rams could end up ‘stuck’ with Johnson.
Johnson will be a hot name on the trade market and should garner a ton of interest. That should bode well for the Rams if they were to use the franchise tag and opt to trade Johnson. The Rams safety will be a hot name of conversation this offseason. All eyes will be watching to see what the Rams decide to do with their star safety.