On Friday, the cornerback market leading into free agency was shaken up in a major way, which could benefit the Cleveland Browns come mid-March. That is because the Kansas City Chiefs agreed to trade CB Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams. Terms of the deal are not yet known, but the deal is expected to go through when the new league year begins on March 14.
With Peters having been a former selection of current Browns GM John Dorsey, many wondered whether Cleveland would be in on him. Originally, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that the Rams, 49ers, and Browns were the three teams who showed some level of interest in Peters. However, later reports suggested that Cleveland was not interested:
The Chiefs have spent the last three weeks on this deal, and only the Rams and 49ers were interested, a source tells me. Multiple sources also tell me the Browns were NOT interested— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) February 23, 2018
What this does open the door to is for the Browns to make a run at CB Trumanie Johnson in free agency, as Benjamin Allbright of The OBR points out. A third-round pick by the Rams in 2012, the Rams have slapped the franchise tag on him in each of the past two years, earning him $13.95 million in 2016 and then $16.74 million in 2017. By the Rams acquiring Peters, that means Johnson will finally hit free agency. Backup QB Dan Orlovsky gave an unsolicited ringing endorsement on Johnson:
I was in camp last year with him. I knew he was big and strong and all but what I was so impressed with was HOW SMART he is and how well he knows the game. He reminds me so much of Revis in that way, but bigger.— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) February 23, 2018
And then, of course, you have the fact that Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was his coach with the Rams from 2014-2016. Johnson’s best year came in 2015, when he started 13 games and logged 71 tackles, 17 passes defended, and 7 interceptions. If you’re looking at consistency, though, here is a nice stat that PFF had back in November 2017:
Lowest passer rating when throwing into a cornerbacks coverage since 2011(min. 2000 coverage snaps)— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) November 10, 2017
PFF has him as No. 2 on their list of “top free agents who can make an immediate impact,” right after QB Kirk Cousins at No. 1. Rams S Lamarcus Joyner hits all the high marks on free agency buzz too, but we’ll see if he gets to the open market or not. But when it comes to Johnson, expect the San Francisco 49ers to be a serious contender for him too...and they’ve got the hot young quarterback already in Jimmy Garoppolo, the second most cap space in the NFL, and a much warmer climate.