Rams’ franchise player Trumaine Johnson is a no-show at OTA workout
The long-term status of Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson, in flux since the end of last season, took another turn Tuesday when he did not show up for an organized team activity workout.
It might be innocuous — OTA workouts are voluntary — but for a team already missing star defensive tackle Aaron Donald because of a contract situation, Johnson’s absence put new coach Sean McVay on the spot for the second time in as many weeks.
After the team’s afternoon workout, McVay said he “didn’t actually know where Trumaine was.” He said Johnson, franchise-tagged for the second year in a row, had previously done a “great job” of communicating and attending workouts and added he was certain the Rams would “find out a little more” about the reason for the absence.
Was it contract related?
“I don’t think so,” McVay said, “but again those are things that we’re keeping in house … not sure about that. ... Haven’t heard anything of that nature right now.”
Johnson, entering his sixth NFL season, is the Rams’ most experienced defensive back.
After he intercepted seven passes in 2015, the Rams put the franchise tag on Johnson before last season and paid him nearly $14 million.
Johnson intercepted only one pass last season, but the Rams tagged him again, ensuring a raise to nearly $17 million.
Under NFL rules, the Rams have until July 15 to work out a long-term contract. Otherwise, Johnson will play under a one-year deal.
The Rams do not appear to be in much of a rush.
During the NFL scouting combine in March, general manager Les Snead said the Rams would wait until OTAs were completed to see how Johnson fit in new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme.
“We need to work together, live together, see if we all fit,” Snead said. “Does Tru fit Wade, does Wade fit Tru?
“Because it’s obvious by the tag number and what corners get paid, it’s a heavy investment and you want to be right. Especially when you go long term.”
After the combine, the Rams made Johnson available for trade. They did not find any suitors, and Snead reiterated on the eve of the draft that they would wait before making a decision.
“Right now, I think we’re more into OTAs and let’s see if we can get something done by the end of this thing,” Snead said in late April. “That’s where we’re at right now.”
Johnson said during an April minicamp, and repeated last week, that his desire was to remain with the Rams with a long-term deal.
But now Donald’s situation has moved to the forefront.
The three-time Pro Bowl player has missed four OTA workouts. He is due to earn about $3.2 million in salary and bonuses this season but is seeking a new contract that would make him among the NFL’s highest-paid defensive players.
Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles gave defensive tackle Fletcher Cox a six-year, $102.6-million extension, $63.3 million of it guaranteed.
McVay on Tuesday provided no update on Donald.
“There’s no new news on that front, but we’re keeping those discussions internal with Aaron and his representation,” he said.
Donald is not expected to return until possibly June 13, when the Rams begin a mandatory three-day minicamp. Players can be fined more than $70,000 if they miss all three days.
Linebacker Robert Quinn said Donald’s absence did not affect teammates.
“There’s two sides of the game — on the grass and the business side,” Quinn said. “This is just part of the business side.
“Guys are still coming out working. Of course we would love to see him out here, but we understand. I mean it’s part of the business.”
Last week, Snead addressed reporters regarding Donald’s situation, saying, “We’re definitely at the serious stage of renegotiating.”
He also was asked about Johnson.
“We want to get through OTAs and make sure it’s a fit on all sides,” he said. “And then we’ll not take a summer vacation and see if we can figure something out there.”
With the signing of veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth, McVay moved Greg Robinson to right tackle. But Robinson, the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft, played mostly behind Jamon Brown on Tuesday. McVay praised Brown’s demeanor and willingness to be coached. “He’s got good movement for a big physical player — and when he gets his hands on people, he certainly does a nice job securing the line of scrimmage,” McVay said. … The Rams signed quarterback Dylan Thompson, who was with the Rams during OTAs and training camp last season before he was released. Thompson, 25, participated in a Rams rookie camp a few weeks ago. The Rams waived running back De’Mard Llorens, who played at Northwestern State and participated in the rookie camp as a tryout player.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein
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