CLEVELAND — As the market for top-tier edge rushers shrunk early in NFL free agency, the Cleveland Browns agreed to terms with safety John Johnson III, a person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press.
Johnson spent the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. He agreed to the deal Monday, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because teams are not permitted to disclose agreements until the league calendar year begins Wednesday.
NFL Network reported Johnson’s deal is for three years and $33.75 million, with $24 million guaranteed.
The Browns, who ended their long playoff drought last season, want to upgrade their defense from front to back after spending extensively last year at fixing their offense. The team will likely add another pass rusher to pair with All-Pro Myles Garrett.
The 25-year-old Johnson improves Cleveland’s secondary, which was decimated by injuries in 2020.
Rookie Grant Delpit, who was expected to start, ruptured an Achilles tendon in training camp and missed the entire season. Cornerback Greedy Williams, another likely starter, also sat out the year after he damaged a nerve in his shoulder.
The Rams selected Johnson in the third round in 2017. He had four interceptions in 2018 and has eight over a career spanning 48 starts.
Cleveland also tendered restricted free agent receiver/special teamer KhaDarel Hodge. He is eligible to negotiate with other teams, but by using the lowest “right of first refusal” tender, Cleveland can match any offer.
The 26-year-old Hodge emerged as a key contributor last season after joining the Browns in 2019. He caught 11 passes for 180 yards in nine games, but was one of the team’s best blocking wide receivers.
He missed time with a hamstring injury and also was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list.
A year ago, the Browns opened free agency with an offensive splash, signing right tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Austin Hooper in the first hours.
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