Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Browns to release John Johnson

  At the NFL combine, Andrew Berry announced that the Cleveland Browns would be releasing starting safety John Johnson in order to give the Browns extra space with their salary cap situation.

Johnson was signed before the 2021 season with a large amount of fanfare from the Los Angeles Rams in what was thought at the time to be quite a coup for the Browns with Johnson being regarded as the top safety available in that free agent class.

With the release, the Browns will save 9.75 million on their cap, and for a team that needs defensive players of impact at several positions, an expensive player that hasn't made such an impact is a luxury that the Browns cannot currently afford.

Johnson intercepted one pass, recovered and forced two fumbles, and finished with a half-sack for the Browns in 2022, which aren't awful numbers but for a player that is earning over thirteen million dollars a year, Johnson's play didn't warrant that amount of pay.

Johnson's two seasons in Cleveland shouldn't be regarded as a bust but even a neutral observer would likely label Johnson's tenure as a bit disappointing.

Johnson often struggled with missed tackles and a player like Johnson isn't paid for making big plays- he's paid for making the average play.

All too often Johnson would have his tackles broken or caught in a missed deep coverage that burnt the Browns several times last season, although other players and defensive coordinator Joe Woods have just as much blame for the blown coverages.

Johnson never seemed comfortable with what Woods asked from him and I would have been interested in seeing how Jim Schwartz would have used Johnson in his system but I understand why Andrew Berry wasn't able to take the chance at the cost for next season entering what seems to be a make or break season for so many in the Browns organization.

Now a Cleveland Browns team that was in desperate need of help at one defensive end, both defensive tackles and linebackers have added another position that will need to be addressed in safety.

Grant Delpit returns at free safety but the only other safeties on the roster are inexperienced D'Anthony Bell and future contract signing Bubba Bolden as Ronnie Harrison is also a free agent that is unlikely to return.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that the Browns have a strong interest in signing Jessie Bates of the Bengals, who, like Johnson in 2021, is rated as the best safety that may be available in free agency.

The Bengals would like to keep Bates and they are trying to do so but their cap constraints may keep them from keeping him in the fold.

The Browns would prefer to trade something to the Bengals for Bates (as they did last season with Dallas for Amari Cooper) to have an exclusive negotiating window for a player that will certainly have several suitors but the division rivals in Southern Ohio aren't very likely to do the Browns any favors that will help them improve.

One thing is for sure- the Cleveland Browns are going to be adding some safeties before training camp because they don't have the option not to add any.

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