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Report: Eagles among teams interested in John Johnson

Hey, look, a free agent rumor!

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles are one of four teams showing interest in free agent safety John Johnson, according to a report from Jonathan Jones. (That’s a lot of J’s.) The Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Cleveland Browns are also said to be interested in the soon-to-be-former (?) Los Angeles Rams defensive back.

A recent NFL free agency prediction from The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia had the Eagles landing Johnson. Here’s what was written at the time:

The Eagles are viewing 2021 as a rebuilding year as they try to get their cap in order, but they are not in the business of completely sitting out free agency. They’ll restructure deals on current players to free up some space to add young talent, and Johnson is a player who could appeal to them. Free safety Rodney McLeod is coming off of a season-ending knee injury and turns 31 in June. Johnson played in a split-safety scheme in Los Angeles and showed versatility with more than 250 snaps at free safety, at slot corner and in the box. At just 25 years old, the Eagles can project Johnson as a key cog for when they’re ready to be more competitive.

How can the Eagles possibly sign Johnson when they’re running so low (currently negative $18 million) on cap space, you ask? Well, they can always offer a contract with a low Year 1 cap hit. The downside in heavy backloading is that it raises the cap hit in future years and makes it harder to move on from the player down the road. But the Eagles might be willing to take that risk on an ascending player like Johnson.

The Eagles signing Johnson would be reminiscent of them adding the aforementioned McLeod, another former Rams safety, as a building block back in 2016. Johnson has been statistically productive with 350 tackles, 32 passes defensed, and eight interceptions in 48 career regular season starts. Johnson has always been a Pro Football Focus favorite, as evidenced by his position rankings in 2017 (11th), 2018 (8th), and 2020 (3rd).

As an added bonus, Johnson once trolled the New Orleans Saints because he didn’t like how they taunted the Eagles during the 2019 playoffs. Perhaps this honorary Eagle will become an actual one.

Acquiring Johnson won’t be cheap and he might very well opt to play for a team that boasts a brighter outlook than the Eagles currently have. In any case, it’ll be worth monitoring where he lands.

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