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What Does the Departure of John Johnson III Mean For the Rams?

On occasion, the typical NFL fan can stomach a minimal amount of pomp. Furthermore, when the moon is just right and the stars have aligned, the typical fan can even enjoy a slight degree of circumstance– straight with no chaser. But it is a rare occurrence indeed when a fan can handle the emotional toll of having to wrestle with both pomp and circumstance. Now that we are currently in the rapidly whirling thicket of NFL Free Agency, beloved players are leaving their base and subsequent legions of loyal supporters left and right to chase seemingly better schematic fits and (cough) more lucrative situations elsewhere. For Los Angeles Rams’ fans, all of the above is most certainly true with the recent announcement that safety John Johnson III (one of the most-skilled secondary players available in all of free agency) has agreed to sign a three-year-deal with the Cleveland Browns.

What Does John Johnson III Leaving Mean for the Rams?

This type of bittersweet conundrum is familiar territory for most diehard fans of any team, watching oftentimes primed and pruned homegrown talent leave them in the dust for greener pastures. Johnson, a 2017 third-round pick and Boston College alumni, will be leaving the Rams after four seasons in Los Angeles where he was one of the most consistent and resplendent shining stars of the fearsome L.A. defense. The hallmark of his increasingly stellar play culminated when he was nominated as the team captain and official defensive signal-caller. In the 2020-21 season, Johnson led the team in total tackles. He also added one interception and eight passes defended to his starry resume.

john johnson III rams browns nfl free agency stats
Credit: Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

At six-foot, 200 pounds, Johnson is extremely versatile and can fully command many positions in the secondary. Possibly, his greatest addition to the franchise was when in 2018, during the NFC Championship game, he intercepted Drew Brees in overtime to facilitate the game-winning field goal that gave berth to the Rams’ first Super Bowl appearance in nearly two decades.

Young Players Must Step Up

But even though the departure of any immensely talented player is usually the direct stimuli for migraines galore across the board, the Rams have wisely done their homework and have been steadily preparing for the day Johnson would no longer don the blue and yellow. In Johnson’s absence, the first name that comes to mind is Taylor Rapp– the second-round pick that the Rams drafted in the 2019 draft out of Washington. Under the tutelage of Johnson and the since departed Eric Weddle, Rapp has blossomed into a formidable presence and reliable starter at the safety position in the ensuing years.

Along with adding Rapp, the Rams boosted their depth at the safety position with the selection of both Terrell Burgess out of Utah in the third round and Jordan Fuller out of Ohio State in the sixth round during the 2020 draft. Additionally, both Nick Scott and JuJu Hughes have both shown enough flashes that newly cemented defensive coordinator Raheem Morris should have plenty of potential, star-power, and depth at his disposal to not only fill the void of Johnson’s absence but keep the momentum going for one of the top-ranked defenses of last season as well.

To not have Johnson flying around in the secondary will be a tough pill to swallow for Rams’ fans. But with good coaching in place and the specific talents of the young players already on the roster, the loss should not amount to quite the tectonic wrecking ball that it might seem on the surface. With limited cap flexibility, the Rams’ fan allegiance should ultimately be happy with these cost-saving measures. While Johnson’s move to sign with Cleveland is unquestionably the most spicy news to hit Mob Squad nation in recent days during all the turbulence of player movement that free agency inevitably brings, this episode warrants a modest amount of pomp, and just a substantial degree of circumstance on its own. But when all is said and done, the adieu of John Johnson III fortunately does not qualify for pomp and circumstance in the larger scheme of things.

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