Following another disappointing season, the Los Angeles Rams are set to enter the offseason with plenty of questions surrounding the future of the franchise.
One of these pertinent questions will lie with their game plan in free agency involving a few key players such as Trumaine Johnson, who will enter the market for a second straight offseason. In light of that, Rams general Les Snead recently stated in an interview with the LA Times that he believes re-signing Johnson will be one of the team's top priorities.
"That will be a big decision," Snead said. "Wade (Phillips), like a lot of [defensive coordinators], likes good players on the outside. Trumaine fits that category. ... Trumaine is a larger guy with good ball skills and all things like that. Is it a square in a square, a triangle in a triangle or more a rectangle in a square? ... That's probably one of the top priorities when Wade walks in the door because, obviously, the magnitude of what his contract will look like and the magnitude of what another franchise tag looks like and everything in between."
In the last couple of seasons, the 27-year-old has emerged as the team's best option in the secondary at his position. Los Angeles had elected to use the franchise tag worth $13.9 million on Johnson last March, which allowed for fellow cornerback Janoris Jenkins to sign a lucrative deal in free agency with the New York Giants.
The former third-round pick had gotten off to a strong start to the 2016 season being tied for the league lead with nine pass deflections along with one interception through the first five games, but his production tailed off after he returned from a two-game absence due to an ankle injury. He finished the year with 57 total tackles, 11 pass deflection, and one interception in 14 games played. According to Pro Football Focus, he finished the year grading out as the 27th overall player at his position (81.0), 26th in pass coverage (81.6), and 98th against the run (39.2).
Despite that, the Rams clearly remain confident in Johnson's ability given that he is just one season removed from his breakout campaign where he was tied for third in the NFL with seven interceptions. There is also an increased importance on his keeping him aboard with new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips dependency on strong play in the secondary.
Phillips had top of the line service from the cornerback position last season with arguably the best duo in the league in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., who both finished the 2016 season as the top two graded players by Pro Football Focus. On top of that, Los Angeles is currently thin at the spot with Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner being only the viable options.
The Rams are expected to have just over $40 million in salary cap space at their disposal this upcoming offseason, which will make their decision involving Johnson that much more critical to the expected roster rebuild in the coming months.