Having been franchise tagged the previous two offseasons, CB Trumaine Johnson garnered much attention when he hit the open market this past March. It did not take long for Johnson to make a decision, however, with a deal in place in the first 24 hours of free agency. Long before Johnson put pen to paper with the Green & White, he targeted the Jets because of his familiarity with Jets defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson.
"When the time came, there were at least 10 to 15 teams that were contacting me," he said of the beginning of the league year in March. "My agent and I boiled it down to two teams and Dennard Wilson was a big factor."
Johnson spent five of his first six seasons with Wilson, who worked as the Rams' quality control coach (2012-2014) and defensive backs coach (2015-2017) before taking over the same role with the Green & White under Todd Bowles last season.
"[Wilson]'s very passionate about his work and that's what I love about him," Johnson said.
Despite living on opposite coasts in 2017, Johnson and Wilson remained in contact. While Wilson was mentoring a pair of talented rookie safeties in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye and helping veteran cornerback Morris Claiborne perform at the highest level of his career, Johnson had two interceptions for a defense that finished tied for sixth in the NFL with 18 thefts.
"Dennard and I always had great communication," said Johnson. "He would always check in on me during the offseason."
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With financial flexibility this offseason and with the elite corner having an expiring contract, Wilson expressed his eagerness about adding the 6'2'', 213-pound corner to his room.
"Of course, I was excited. We have a tremendous relationship," Wilson said. "I've been around him since he's been in the league except for one year. I know what he brings to the table. I know who he is as a person. To get him will be a nice addition."
It's not only his playmaking ability that makes Johnson such a valuable asset to the Jets secondary. The California native has been touted for his versatility, having played extensive time in both man and zone coverage. He has the ability to force action elsewhere, creating opportunities for his teammates and also allow Todd Bowles and Kacy Rodgers to get more creative with their pressure packages.
"Trumaine is a smart, intelligent player," said Wilson. "He can play different facets. He can play ahead of what an offense is doing because he studies the game. He's a confident player and he's physical. He brings a good element to this defense."
Johnson knows that he is only one cog in the wheel, but he is excited about the talent and energy he sees he sees around him.
"It's a good defense already. These guys are hungry and they are tremendous athletes," he said. "They have a good nucleus here and I'm just trying to add on."