EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The Rams are using their franchise tag for the first time since 2009.
The Rams placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on cornerback Trumaine Johnson, thus ensuring that they retain matching rights on him should another team offer him a contract and also receive two first-round picks should they decline to match such an offer.
"Since we drafted Trumaine in 2012, he has developed into an integral part of our defense," general manager Les Snead said. "We look forward to having him with us this season and more to come." s
The Rams have been adamant about their intent to sign both Johnson and fellow free-agent cornerback Janoris Jenkins to long-term contract extensions. The use of the tag ensures that the Rams will have at least some level of control in Johnson's future.
The franchise tag price for a cornerback is $13,952,000 for 2016. Johnson can sign that one-year tender offer at any time, guaranteeing him that salary for next season. The Rams and Johnson can also continue negotiating a long-term deal with a deadline of July 15 to complete such an agreement.
Johnson, 26, made a big leap in 2015 as teams tested him more regularly than previous seasons. He tied for third in the NFL with seven interceptions and led the team with 12 pass breakups.
After the season, Johnson told ESPN.com that he hoped to return to the team but understood the business side of the league.
"It is a business," Johnson said then. "The last few years seeing it, being in this locker room seeing guys go, people taking money, people taking pay cuts, you have got to do what's best for you and your family when it comes down to it. So we'll see."
In his four NFL seasons, Johnson has 15 interceptions, the fourth most in the NFL in that time and the most among players taken in the 2012 draft.
The Rams used a third-round pick on Johnson in that draft after selecting Jenkins in the second round. Before Tuesday, the Rams hadn't used the franchise tag since 2009, when they placed it on safety Oshiomogho Atogwe.
Teams can begin negotiating with outside free agents on Monday and begin officially signing those players on March 9.