Buccaneers 2018 Free-Agency Spotlight: Cornerback, Trumaine Johnson

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 06: Trumaine Johnson #22 of the Los Angeles Rams reacts during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Los Angeles Coliseum on January 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 06: Trumaine Johnson #22 of the Los Angeles Rams reacts during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Los Angeles Coliseum on January 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

NFL free-agency is less than a month away, and we have begun our look at potential targets for the Buccaneers. We’ve already covered running back Le’Veon Bell, and today we’re looking at Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson.

With Brent Grimes’ future and Vernon Hargreaves looking increasingly like a nickel corner every day, the Buccaneers would be wise to invest in the position by trying to find an outside defender.

Looking at the available list of unrestricted free-agents, Johnson looks like one of the best options out there, and at 28-years old he’s not too old while being experienced enough to bring some leadership to the team as well.

Coming from one of the best defenses in the NFL from 2017, it’s important to remember Johnson is the guy the Rams chose to keep over Janoris Jenkins just a short time ago.

So, can the Bucs land him? Should they even want to? Let’s take a deeper look at him.

Trumaine Johnson’s Career

As a third-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Johnson’s NFL.com draft profile credited him with having solid press coverage skills and long speed to carry receivers downfield.

The only real knock against him was his lack of elite competition playing in the Big Sky Conference at the University of Montana.

I’d say they got this one right.

In his rookie season, he appeared in all sixteen games with three starts and two interceptions. From there, his usage and performances just got better.

The high point of his career stats came in 2015 when he was responsible for seven interceptions despite missing three games during the regular season.

In the two seasons since his former teammate (Jenkins) left for the New York Giants, Johnson’s own interception numbers have dropped. This is no coincidence. Without Jenkins playing opposite of him, NFL quarterbacks just don’t have to throw at Johnson as much as they once did.

 Why the Buccaneers Need Him

More from The Pewter Plank

You may need to sit down for this: The Buccaneers had a terrible pass defense in 2017.

I’ll go on the record here by writing that I believe a lot of their coverage problems could have been helped by a competent pass rush, but there were plenty of secondary issues as well.

Injuries among them, early on some of the biggest issues came from soft zones and off coverage. Bottom line up front, the Bucs defense just didn’t scare anyone.

Johnson is a physical player, and like his draft profile once said, he has the long speed to keep up downfield.

When Mike Smith was asked early in 2017 about Hargreaves’ meme-worthy tendency to play off coverage, he said in no uncertain terms it was the decision of the player to do so.

I’ll leave my own coaching theories out of this, but essentially what he told the world is when his young corner plays outside, he plays off.

Johnson doesn’t. He’s talented for sure, but more importantly, he’s aggressive. And successful at being aggressive on top it all.

What Will Johnson Cost?

There’s no way to predict salaries for certain, but there are ways to estimate it. Thanks to the folks at Spotrac, the research on this is made just a bit easier.

If you go to the link above, you’ll see how he compares to other cornerbacks in the league in important statistical areas like games played, tackles per game, interceptions per game, etc.

Basically, he sits right around the area of Josh Norman and Xavier Rhodes, but keep in mind his interception rating is a little underwhelming due mainly to the lack of targets.

In the end, the website estimates his market value to be around $11 Million per year.

Considering Rhodes is averaging just over $14 Million and Norman is earning $15 Million per year, I think his number actually ends up being closer to the $13 Million per year range.

Simply put, prices go up, not down. Especially when there are multiple teams vying for one man’s services.

Next: Le'Veon Bell Spotlight

Will It Happen?

I think it’s an interesting situation to watch, and as of right now I wouldn’t put money on either direction. There are several options out there, and Jason Licht may decide he doesn’t much care for bidding wars, leading him to target a lesser known high ceiling player.

There haven’t been many rumors tying Johnson to the Bucs, but it’s early.

What are your thoughts on Trumaine Johnson joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Let me know in the comments or on social media to discuss.

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David Harrison is one of the Buccaneers Co-Experts for The Pewter Plank. You can reach him about this or any other NFL topic on Facebook, or on Twitter.