NEW YORK (AP) Trumaine Johnson has a huge contract and even bigger expectations from the Jets and their fans.
That’s nothing new for New York’s newest cornerback, who has already established himself as one of the NFL’s best at his position. And he got paid as such, signing a five-year, $72.5 million deal last week that included a $20 million signing bonus and $34 million in guaranteed money.
“No pressure at all,” Johnson said Thursday during a conference call with reporters. “I know what I can do. I know what I can bring to the game. I’ve been confident all my life. I really love winning, and I can’t wait to get started with this defense.”
Johnson spent his first six seasons with the Rams and was arguably the top cornerback available at the start of the league’s free agency period last Wednesday. He had 18 interceptions while establishing himself as one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL, routinely tracking opponents’ top wide receivers the last two seasons for Los Angeles.
“On paper, it does look good, but a lot of things go along with that,” Johnson said. “I’m just focused, right now, on getting in the building, meeting everybody else, the rest of the coaches, the strength and conditioning coaches, the staff. My main focus is winning. That’s always been my main focus. That’s my goal. I love winning and I can’t wait to get started with the New York Jets.”
After he signed, Johnson said he immediately heard from his new secondary mates as Adams, Maye and Claiborne all reached out to him to welcome him to the team.
Some fans and media have already started to wonder if Johnson and Claiborne could be the top cornerback duo in the NFL. And Johnson doesn’t shy away from that potential label.
“Why not?” Johnson asked. “I’m going to hold him accountable and I know he’s going to hold me accountable. I can’t wait to go out there and compete with the guys.”
Johnson was a third-round pick out of Montana in 2012 and established himself as a solid starter in his second year with the Rams. His breakout season came in 2015, when he had a career-high seven interceptions. The Rams used the franchise tag on Johnson the last two offseasons, when he made $13.95 million in 2016 and $16.74 million last year.
But this offseason was the first time Johnson was able to make his own decision on where to play – and set his own terms.
“It is good to have security, finally,” he said. “That’s what one of my main focuses has been, trying to get that long-term contract. I’m happy that the Jets took a chance on me.”
Johnson’s talents are unquestioned, and he has the confidence to match them. He didn’t hesitate when asked what he brings to his new team.
“I’m a game changer,” he said. “I’m a playmaker. I bring leadership to the team. I’m big, I’m fast and I used to be a receiver back in college, so my hands have always been a strength for me.”
With the Jets, Johnson will be reunited with secondary coach Dennard Wilson, the Rams’ defensive quality control coach from 2012-14 and Johnson’s position coach from 2015-16.
“One of the big things was to re-link with Coach Wilson,” Johnson said. “I’ve been comfortable with him, he knows my style of play and I know his style of coaching, so that was big for me.”
Johnson is leaving a Rams team that’s on the rise and joins a franchise that is trying to get to that point. The Jets have been active in free agency this offseason and have made wholesale changes to their roster in the last year. They finished 5-11 for the second straight season, but are looking to turn things around in the near future.
The arrow, Johnson believes, is pointing up for the Jets and that helped make his decision easier.
“I’m still young, I mean, I’m 28 and my whole goal is to win a championship,” he said. “That’s always been my goal. I’ll play this game for free. Money doesn’t really matter to me. I love winning that much. I just wanted to go somewhere that was comfortable and I’d have a chance at winning.”
The money certainly helps, of course. And, Johnson has big-time plans for his first big purchase since signing with the Jets.
“It’s going to be buying my mother a house,” Johnson said. “I want to get her a house, man. She deserves it.”
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