Trumaine Johnson is entering free agency as the top cornerback available. His old team, the Rams, has made it clear that they’re moving on by trading for cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, and signing cornerback Sam Shields.
That might seem like it’s a bad sign for Johnson, that the Rams are moving on. But by taking three cornerbacks off the market, they’ve actually done Johnson a favor.
Good cornerbacks are hard to come by in the NFL, and a good cornerback like Johnson is always going to make a lot of money in free agency. But if other cornerback-needy teams had acquired Talib, Peters or Shields, that might have made them less likely in entering the bidding war for Johnson.
With the Rams hoarding cornerbacks, there’s an even smaller supply for the rest of the league. The next-best cornerback on the board is Kyle Fuller, but he has the transition tag, which means the Bears can match any offer for him. Teams that need a cornerback would likely rather make a big push for Johnson immediately than sign Fuller and then wait to see whether the Bears match the offer. After Fuller, the next-best cornerback available is Malcolm Butler, but after the Patriots benched him in the Super Bowl for reasons that remain unclear, teams may hesitate to make him a big-money offer as well.
The bottom line is that Johnson is by far the best option among the available cornerbacks, and the Rams have taken away three potential fallback options for any team that doesn’t get Johnson. That means multiple teams will want to make Johnson a very rich man — a good position for Johnson to be in when free agency opens next week.