LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on cornerback Trumaine Johnson on Tuesday, greatly improving their chances of keeping at least one of their starting cornerbacks during free agency.

The Rams used their franchise tag for the first time since 2009 on Johnson, who is still allowed to negotiate with other teams in free agency. The Rams retain matching rights to any deal, and Los Angeles would receive two first-round picks in compensation if the club decides not to match another offer.

Johnson also could accept the Rams’ one-year franchise tag tender, worth just under $14 million. The Rms can work on a long-term deal with Johnson until July 15, shortly before training camp.

“Since we drafted Trumaine in 2012, he has developed into an integral part of our defense,” Rams general manager Les Snead said. “We look forward to having him with us this season and more to come.”

Johnson ranked third in the NFL with seven interceptions last season, emerging as a standout defensive playmaker. The California native and former third-round pick has 33 starts and 15 interceptions in his first four NFL seasons out of Montana.

The Rams are eager to re-sign four regulars from their defensive secondary as they head into free agency, including both of their promising starting cornerbacks. Janoris Jenkins is an unrestricted free agent along with safeties Mark Barron and Rodney MacLeod, and Snead has called it “realistic” to sign all four.

Jenkins, a four-year starter for the Rams with 10 career interceptions, fired his agent last weekend.

The Rams waived defensive lineman Chris Long and franchise tackles leader James Laurinaitis last month in a bid to create more payroll room heading into their return season in Southern California after a 21-year absence.

 

 

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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