The Los Angeles Rams have placed the franchise tag on cornerback Trumaine Johnson, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The Rams rewarded Johnson for his breakout campaign last year by locking him up with a guaranteed one-year deal worth $13.95 million.
The Rams elected to tag Johnson over cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who will now become an unrestricted free agent. Jenkins, a 27-year-old former second-round pick who had three interceptions last year, was offered a five-year, $45 million contract by the Rams but turned it down. Earlier this week he fired his agent.
In his first season as a full-time starter, Johnson grabbed seven interceptions, tied for third-most in the league, and had a team-high 17 passes defended. The former University of Montana star has made tremendous strides since being drafted in the third round by the Rams in 2012, emerging as one of the top cover guys in the NFL. He allowed a 55.0 passer rating when targeted this season, second only to Josh Norman among corners.
With strong cornerbacks in high demand and likely to command top dollar on the market, the Rams were smart to retain Johnson. His size (6'2, 205 pounds) means that he can match up with big receivers, as evidenced by his outstanding performance in Week 14 against the Detroit Lions when he held Calvin Johnson to zero catches.
The tag hasn't been a common financial tool for the Rams in recent years. Johnson is the team's first player to get the franchise tag since free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe in 2009. However, this move indicates that they value the ball-hawking and coverage skills of the improving Johnson, who now has to prove that he can sustain his high level of play in the secondary for more than one season.