Trumaine Johnson has mastered the art of maximizing your earning power thanks to good skills, a great agent and impeccable timing. He’s been the right guy at the right time, not too great and not too bad, shrewd and savvy every step of the way.
So, it’s no surprise that Johnson doesn’t regret parting ways with arguably the best team in the universe or feel a burden to live up to his lofty new contract. Life is damn good for the veteran cornerback regardless of his admittedly “up and down” first season with the Jets.
Johnson has more than $54 million in career earnings. He might be a member of an irrelevant team at the moment, but he’s a wealthy man. Consider this four-year window for the 28-year-old cornerback: He’ll pocket $64.694 million from 2016-2019. That’s an average of $16.17 million for a guy who has not made an All-Pro or Pro Bowl team in his first seven seasons.
He played on back-to-back franchise tags for the Rams ($13.952 million and $16.742 million) before landing a five-year, $72.5 million deal with the Jets that included $34 million guaranteed at signing. As a practical matter, Johnson’s contract is a 3-year, $45 million pact.
“To be honest, I never would have thought that it would have worked out that way,” Johnson told the Daily News about his financial boon. “It wasn’t my main focus, but I knew (agent) Joel (Segal) would take care of it. It worked out in the long run. You asked me if I regret leaving the Rams … No, I don’t regret it. I had a great six years there. Great coaches. Great teammates. And now I’m here.”
Johnson’s business instincts rival Darrelle Revis, who squeezed every last penny out of teams in his career. It’s fair to say that Johnson, however, has not yet lived up to his contract. He missed five games with a quad injury this season. By every objective measure, he’s wavered between disappointing and pedestrian in the six games that he’s actually played.
“Thought he’d be better,” said one Jets insider.
Regardless, does Johnson feel a burden to live up to his monster pay day from Gang Green?
“Not at all,” Johnson said. “Not at all, to be honest with you. (When) I came in here, my whole main focus was to flip this organization around and start winning games. Our goal was to go to the playoffs. Like I said, I’ve always been about winning where I’m at. But as far as pressure … no. I love the game. And I like going out there and competing no matter what’s going on.”
The competitor in him surely must wonder what life what have been like if he were still with the 10-1 Rams, who seem to be on a collision course with the Saints for the right to go the Super Bowl.
The Rams attempted to revamp their secondary by trading for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib in the offseason. After giving Johnson consecutive franchise tags, it became clear that they didn’t want to dole out a monster multi-year deal for a solid, but not spectacular player.
“I wish nothing but for the best for those guys,” Johnson said. “I knew when (Sean) McVay came on the scene and we started flipping the organization around, I knew they were going to be good. He’s a great coach. They got good position coaches out there. They got Wade Phillips, a future Hall of Fame coach. A lot of guys bought in into changing that culture that way. So, I’m rooting for them every step of the way. So, no. No regret at all. Not at all.”
So, Johnson finds himself at a place with an impending coaching change rather than a place that will be playing meaningful games in January.
Todd Bowles and defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson, who worked with Johnson with the Rams, spearheaded the effort to sign the veteran in free agency. The Jets doled out so much loot due to supply and demand. Johnson has never been shutdown cornerback, but he was widely regarded as the best available player at his position in free agency. The timing was perfect for Johnson to cash in.
How will a coaching change impact Johnson’s feeling about coming here?
“I’m going to still be me regardless of who’s here,” Johnson said. “I came here for myself. I understand that there’s always a business part of it. Player wise, coaching wise. I’ve been a part of coaching staff that got fired and we bought a whole new coaching staff. It’s part of the game. It’s a business part of it. But I’ll be the same.”
Johnson has maintained a professional disposition amid his rocky campaign. Like most of the team, Johnson peaked in the season opener with an interception and pass deflection. He’s managed just one pass deflection and one forced fumble in his other five games.
He missed five games after suffering a quad/thigh injury in an embarrassing Week 4 loss in Jacksonville that included him giving up a 67-yard touchdown.
“Injuries are a part of the game,” Johnson said. “You definitely can’t let it get to you whether you’re not out there, whether you’re winning games or you’re losing games.… But my injury was a thigh injury. So, you couldn’t just come back, especially playing my position. I had to be at least 80 percent, 90 percent.”
Johnson gave up a 47-yard completion to undrafted Bills wide receiver Robert Foster (who was called up from the practice squad a day earlier) on his first play back from injury. He allowed a 17-yard third-down reception to Patriots wideout Josh Gordon on a critical 3rd and 10 in the fourth quarter last week that ultimately led to a back-breaking touchdown.
“I think that he’ll put (together) a string of games and play a lot better than he has played,” defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson said Monday. “Right now, he’s coming back from an injury. I don’t think he was in the greatest shape. He’s getting himself back ready to go. He won’t waver. He accepts the challenge just like everybody else.”
Johnson’s self-confidence has not trumwaned during this underwhelming season.
“My confidence is sky-rocket. It’s high,” Johnson said. “Being a corner, you got to have confidence. You got to love competing. I love competing being out there on an island. Like I said, my whole focus was always winning games when I was with the Rams and now with the Jets.”