INDIANAPOLIS — For the last two seasons, cornerback Trumaine Johnson has played under the franchise tag. He's slated to hit the open market as an unrestricted when the new league year begins on March 14. And for much of the offseason — mainly because of the potential cost of a long-term deal — many analysts have predicted the Montana product will be playing elsewhere in 2018.
But that may not end up being the case. On Wednesday morning, Rams head coach Sean McVay made his feelings on the veteran cornerback quite clear.
"We want Trumaine back. We want to try to see if that can work," McVay told assembled reporters at the NFL Combine, noting that Johnson's situation is independent of any other transaction Los Angeles may or may not make.
McVay added he has spoken to Johnson about that.
"We do have a lot of respect and appreciation for probably the market that he'll have. And I think that's where as you get a little closer to free agency, you see what does that market look like? That will then determine if we're able to get him back and see him continue to play for us."
Selected in the third round of the 2012 draft, Johnson has played his entire six-year career for the Rams. In that time, Johnson's recorded 18 interceptions, three of which he's returned for touchdowns. The cornerback picked off a career-high seven passes in 2015 — a clear factor in the corner receiving his first franchise tag after that year. Johnson has since recorded three interceptions in the last two seasons — one in 2016 and two in 2017.
Nevertheless, Johnson was a clear impact player for Los Angeles in his first season under McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Johnson recorded a team-high 14 pass breakups, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in addition to his two picks.
Plus, Los Angeles has a bit of unpredictability at the cornerback position for next season, given that Kayvon Webster is recovering from a season-ending Achilles injury — plus a recent shoulder surgery — and Nickell Robey-Coleman's contract is up.
All of that goes into why L.A. hasn't closed the door on a Johnson return.
"With Wade's defense, when you just look at some of the core principles, there's a premium on guys that can rush the passer and cover. And, really, that's most defenses in general with what that enables you to do," McVay said. "And I think also specific to the fact that our corner situation with Trumaine up, you look at Kayvon Webster with the injury, Nickell Robey is a free agent, some of those things — there's a lot of guys who were instrumental in what we were able to do defensively that there's some uncertainty moving forward, whether we'll have them or when they're going to be back from those injuries."
Check out photos of Los Angeles Rams players at the NFL Combine through the years. (Credit: Associated Press)