Trumaine Johnson will play under the franchise tag for the second consecutive year. Johnson and the Los Angeles Rams failed to reach a long-term deal before the July 17 deadline, meaning the 27-year-old cornerback is scheduled to be a free agent in 2018.
He’ll earn $16.7 million next season under the tag, making him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.
As a result, Howard’s fight against the sophomore slump will be harder than any other second-year player’s. Opposing defenses will have a clear No. 1 on their to-do list each time they face a languid Chicago offense. Linebackers and safeties will creep closer and closer to the line of scrimmage unless the Bears’ passing attack finds a way to surprise in 2017. Shutting down the dynamic young back would mean the team has to beat you with players like Glennon and Meredith — not exactly intimidating forces.
But betting against Howard is a fool’s errand. He has preternatural vision and anticipation from the backfield, allowing him to see holes that haven’t even begun to open as he makes his cuts. His rookie season was a magic show. He’d disappear into a cloud of blockers, then emerge sprinting wildly out the other side.
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Geneo Grissom Game Jersey While Howard lacks the top-end speed to be a true home run threat like Ezekiel Elliott, his ability to move the chains for a lackluster offense in 2016 made him special. With the three-headed hydra of overthrown passes behind center — Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer, and Matt Barkley — defenses knew they had to stop Chicago’s rushing attack. Despite the pressure, he still rushed for 1,313 yards, more than anyone else in the league not named Zeke.
In 2017, he’ll have to replicate that performance despite a passing offense that looks even worse on paper than last season’s. Fortunately, the second-year tailback is more than just a runner.