March 01, 2017

LOS ANGELES (AP) The Los Angeles Rams placed the franchise tag on Trumaine Johnson for the second straight year Wednesday, likely making him the NFL's highest-paid cornerback next season.

The Rams used the non-exclusive tag on Johnson shortly before the deadline, deciding their defense couldn't afford to lose its best defensive back - even at a cost of nearly half of the team's current salary cap room if he plays under the franchise tender next season.

Johnson and the Rams can negotiate a long-term deal until July 15, or he can sign a deal for next season at roughly $16.8 million, thanks to a raise from the $14.212 million tender because he was franchised for a second year.

Although Johnson has never made a Pro Bowl or an All-Pro team, he is a solid cover cornerback for the Rams' defense, which ranked ninth in the NFL last year.

He missed two games due to injury and had just one interception last season after getting seven in 2015. Johnson also had 57 tackles while making $13.952 million in 2016.

Johnson has 15 interceptions in his first four NFL seasons. He will continue to have a key role for the Rams under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who often relies on solid cornerbacks to handle one-on-one assignments.

Johnson is particularly valuable to the Rams with uncertainty at the other cornerback spot. The Rams lost Janoris Jenkins to the New York Giants with a lucrative free-agent deal before last season.

E.J. Gaines and undrafted free agents Troy Hill and Michael Jordan all played opposite Johnson with moderate success last season for the Rams.

Johnson is the first cornerback to receive the franchise tag in back-to-back seasons since Charles Woodson, who got it from the Oakland Raiders in 2004-05.

Johnson can negotiate a contract with other teams, but the Rams would get two first-round draft picks if he leaves.

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