The New York Jets landed arguably the top cornerback on the free-agent market, with a league source telling ESPN’s Adam Schefter the team is expected to sign former Los Angeles Rams “franchise” player Trumaine Johnson.
The contract terms weren’t immediately available. Johnson intends to sign his deal after 4 p.m. Wednesday, when the league year begins, according to the source.
The addition of Johnson was an important one for the Jets, whose system is predicated on man-to-man coverage by the corners. Before landing Johnson, they had only one starting-caliber corner under contract, Buster Skrine, who is best suited to the No. 3 role.
The Jets also have been in talks with Morris Claiborne, who started 15 games last season. There’s still a chance they could re-sign Claiborne, which would fortify a secondary that allowed 30 touchdown passes last season.
Johnson posted a farewell to the Rams on his Instagram account Monday. He will be reunited with secondary coach Dennard Wilson, who was his position coach with the Rams through 2016.
Johnson, 28, spent the past two years as the Rams’ primary cornerback and played under the franchise tag in both those seasons, his salary jumping to $16.74 million in 2017. He was arguably the best corner available on the free-agent market this offseason, mainly because of his size, his ability to match up with elite receivers and his track record for staying healthy.
Among 86 cornerbacks with at least 325 coverage snaps, Pro Football Focus had Johnson ranked 35th in opponents’ completion percentage (57.3) and 36th in opponents’ passer rating (79.8) when targeted. He allowed 1.33 yards per coverage snap, which put him within the bottom 20 percent of qualified cornerbacks.
But Johnson also spent a lot of time shadowing the likes of Pierre Garcon, Dez Bryant, Marqise Lee, Larry Fitzgerald, DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Thomas and Alshon Jeffery in 2017. Those seven combined to catch only 57.7 percent of their targets when Johnson was responsible for covering them, nearly 8 percentage points below the NFL average, according to numbers compiled by ESPN.
A third-round pick out of Montana in 2012, Johnson has 18 interceptions and 42 pass breakups over the past six seasons, playing in 85 of a potential 96 regular-season games. During that time, he has proved capable of playing on both sides of the field.
ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez contributed to this report.