One of the biggest questions surrounding the Los Angeles Rams this offseason is what they would do with safety John Johnson III. Was an extension possible or would they franchise tag him for $11M. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Rams will not be using the franchise tag on Johnson III.
One of the top safeties who won't be franchise tagged is Rams' John Johnson, per source. He will have a strong market.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 9, 2021
This comes as no surprise. The Rams simply don’t have the salary cap. While $11M is lower than what Johnson III will get in free agency, it’s simply money that the team simply doesn’t have.
Earlier this week the New York Jets opted to go the franchise tag route and tagged safety Marcus Maye. The Denver Broncos also did the same with safety Justin Simmons.
While the Rams did not tag Johnson III, it also doesn’t necessarily mean that a return to Los Angeles isn’t possible. Johnson III can hit the market and see what his value is. If he does want to return, he can report back and allow the Rams the opportunity to match the offer. From there, Les Snead and co. can opt whether or not it’s something that they can do.
This is the route that the Rams chose last offseason with Dante Fowler Jr. and Cory Littleton. In the end, they were not able to come near or match offers from the Raiders or Falcons. That resulted in both players leaving.
It will be disappointing if Johnson III leaves in free agency. However, it also doesn’t mean that the Rams messed up in any way. The NFL is a business and the team doesn’t have the cap. The defense actually has depth at safety with players like Taylor Rapp, Terrell Burgess, and Jordan Fuller.
The Rams drafted Johnson III in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. For a third-round pick, he obviously outperformed his draft slot. It was Johnson IIII’s interception of Drew Brees in the 2018 NFC Championship game that helped send the Rams to the Super Bowl.