Leonard Johnson came to the Buffalo Bills last offseason, following his defensive coach Sean McDermott when he was hired as head coach in Western New York. Johnson is a little long in the tooth but has provided solid leadership and experience with McDermott and put together a nice campaign in 2018.
“I’m really happy to be a part of this organization,” Johnson said after the season. “I’m not even bullshitting. I’m so glad I decided to come here. I’m so glad I chose to come here. All bullshit aside, man, it’s more. I didn’t really know what to expect. All I really knew was I was coming to Buffalo to play, but it’s family oriented. A lot to do. I have my kids here, my fiancee. We live right downtown. Lots of little art stuff. It’s fun, man.”
“I would love for this to be my home,” Johnson continued. “I’ve got my fiancee here. I’ve got my kids here. This organization is more hands on and I’m grateful to be a part of it. I feel at home. My fiancee, she comes in on Tuesdays with me and eats breakfast. She comes in and walks around, my son comes in and he plays with Mike Tolbert. You can bring your family here, and her not being able to do that other places, it’s like we’re home. That’s another thing that motivates me. I want to keep her around the wives and the girlfriends of these other players as well. It’s a close knit family, man.”
As he was about to re-sign with the Carolina Panthers, Johnson texted McDermott seeing if he was interested in bringing the slot corner to his new gig in Buffalo. McDermott obliged and Johnson became part of the team’s new-look secondary on a one-year contract. Never in high demand, Johnson didn’t finish his rookie contract and has played one year each with the New England Patriots, Panthers, and Bills over the last three seasons.
Johnson played under the veteran minimum benefit, so he made the league minimum for a player with his years of experience but counted less against the salary cap than what he was paid. It’s a tool designed to help players who are aging from being replaced by younger players based solely on salary. If a rookie’s minimum salary is half an aging veteran, you’re more likely to go with the rookie and making the minimum salary a punishment rather than a reward.
2017: $775,000 salary plus $80,000 bonus, $695,000 cap hit
Nickell Robey-Coleman, a name familiar to Bills fans, is another slot cornerback who signed a veteran minimum deal with the Los Angeles Rams last offseason. His contract numbers were the exact same as Johnson’s in order to take advantage of the same veteran minimum benefit.
Contracts utilizing the minimum benefit must only be for one year. With Johnson’s solid-not-spectacular play, Buffalo would be wise to offer him the same minimum contract in 2018. That salary figure has risen but the cap hit is the same.
One year, $870,000 including an $80,000 signing bonus
Signing bonus: $80,000
Cap hit: $710,000
- Pros for Johnson: Keeps his family in Buffalo, stays with McDermott, said ““I’m hoping it will work out, you feel me?” after the season
- Pros for Bills: really low cap number for a starter-level player, ability to release easily
Would you offer Leonard Johnson a one-year, veteran minimum deal to play slot corner?
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