Could the Los Angeles Chargers bring in former Rams safety John Johnson III in NFL Free Agency to pair him alongside Derwin James? The current Chargers rumors are hinting this connection will be made, due to Johnson’s relationship with new head coach Brandon Staley.
It is still possible that the Los Angeles Rams decide to franchise tag Johnson before the March 9 deadline. Although, with just over a week left, most signs lean towards Johnson becoming a free agent. Newly-assigned Chargers head coach Staley coached Johnson last season as the Rams defensive coordinator, so this could lead to Johnson staying in Los Angeles, but switching teams.
Chargers Free Agency Target: John Johnson III
The former third-round pick ended the 2020 season leading the No. 1 defense in tackles, at 105. That also put him eighth among safeties and, interestingly enough, just two tackles shy of current Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray, who finished with 107 tackles. There were only 13 players who finished with more solo tackles than Johnson’s 79. With a healthy Derwin James set to come back for the 2021 season, he alongside Johnson could become a threatening secondary. Johnson established himself as one of the premier tacklers in the game and that is something the Chargers have missed from the free safety position.
Johnson is quick to the ball on every play. He disrupts the timing on throws and is constantly involved in almost every tackle. With a full head of steam, there isn’t a ball carrier that Johnson can’t handle, even 6-foot-4 230 lb DK Metcalf.
The Chargers currently don’t have many options at safety. James missed all of the 2020 season with a torn meniscus but is healthy again. Rayshawn Jenkins (who started at SS in place of James) is expected to hit the free agent market along with Jahleel Addae. Nasir Adderly started most of the games last season at FS and finished with 69 tackles. Alohi Gilman ended the season with just five tackles.
Adding a safety of Johnson’s caliber would really strengthen the secondary. His familiarity with Staley’s system would be beneficial for the young star, as he thrived in it last season. His market value is set around $8.3M, so he will be affordable for the Bolts to sign a multi-year deal.