John Johnson III signed a three-year contract with the Cleveland Browns near the beginning of the free agency. The contract was universally viewed as a home run bargain for Cleveland, as the former pro bowler will be owed just $5.25 million dollars in 2021; a season in which the salary cap is impacted by the pandemic. This allowed for salary cap flexibility for Andrew Berry to make other moves, such as bringing in Johnson’s former LA teammate in the secondary Troy Hill. Not only was Johnson’s contract a terrific value for the Browns, but he will immediately become one of the leaders of a Browns defense that dealt with many issues a season ago. What John Johnson III brings to Cleveland should greatly help the Browns.
A Maligned Back End
Cleveland’s secondary was one of the glaring weaknesses on their team in 2020, mostly due to injury. Second round draft pick Grant Delpit and second year pro Greedy Williams both missed the entire season due to injury, forcing a number of players to step up in their place. Most notably, veteran safety Andrew Sendejo was elevated into a starting role and was picked on in coverage for a majority of the season. Terrance Mitchell filled in adequately for Greedy Williams, but he also was moved up a spot on the depth chart when Denzel Ward and fellow cornerback Kevin Johnson were placed on the COVID-19 list. Johnson III’s natural leadership instincts that former coaches rave over will be a perfect fit in Cleveland’s secondary that will look to rebound after a tough 2020.
What John Johnson III brings to Cleveland
According to Pro Football Focus, (PFF) Johnson III finished the 2020 season with a grade of 85.3. This was good enough for third out of all safeties in the NFL. Most importantly for the Browns, Johnson’s pass coverage grade was 86.6 last year, an area that the former Los Angeles Ram will make an immediate impact for the orange and brown. While it will be either Johnson or newly signed linebacker Anthony Walker as the on field defensive signal caller, Johnson has experience in this role which speaks volumes to his communication abilities on the field.
The Browns defense enjoyed a complete overhaul this offseason, with Johnson III and Jadeveon Clowney headline a stellar free agent and draft class, Cleveland’s new defensive look will be headlined by a new secondary, for the exception of Denzel Ward and Ronnie Harrison. Cleveland will be extremely deep at safety this season, as they feature Harrison, Johnson, and second year pro Delpit who will be making his debut in 2021. When Ronnie Harrison was missing with an injury, Cleveland’s safeties were exposed as the back end of the defense allowed too many big passing plays. The signing of Johnson III will bring an attitude change to the Browns defense; a unit that was carried by the offense at points during 2020.
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