Last season, Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson turned in one of the most memorable plays in franchise history to help propel the team to the AFC Championship game.
On Saturday, the team made sure the starting nickel cornerback with a knack for coming through in the big moments will be staying with the team a while longer. The Bills announced on Oct. 9 that they had signed Johnson to a three-year extension, keeping him from hitting free agency next year and taking another step to keep the core of the league-best defense intact.
As the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported, the three-year extension is worth $24 million and includes close to $14 million in guaranteed money.
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Johnson’s New Deal
Prior to the announcement of his contract extension, Johnson’s future with the team had been in question. As Jon Scott of Spectrum News had noted, Johnson’s struggles with injuries and the rise of third-year cornerback Cam Lewis made it unclear whether the Bills would bring him back after his contract was up.
“The #Bills have a very interesting decision to make this upcoming offseason with Taron Johnson,” Scott tweeted. “He’s been absolutely fantastic this season, but injuries continue to be a thing. And Cam Lewis has shown he’s more than capable to being a good nickel corner for them.”
Johnson made two of the biggest plays of the 2020 season. He returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football to help the Bills to a 26-15 victory. In the playoffs, Johnson intercepted Lamar Jackson in the endzone and raced 101 yards for a touchdown to help lock down a 17-3 win over the Baltimore Ravens and a trip to the AFC Championship game.
As the team’s official website noted, Johnson’s playmaking ability and versatility have earned some praise from his teammates.
“Love that dude,” defensive captain Micah Hyde told the site. “Man, he just does everything for our defense. You’ve got to have a nickel that’s a dog, and that’s him. He’s been showing it the last couple years. Just a great kid, a great guy, who has come a long ways. His growth mentally, on the football field, and even off, just becoming a man. It’s so cool to see a young guy like that coming along. He’s been making a lot of plays in this league for a long time.”
Bills Defense Rolling
Thanks to Johnson and his teammates, the Bills have had one of the league’s top defenses this season, allowing just 44 total points while pitching a pair of shutouts. As ESPN noted, the team has a league-best 11 takeaways while giving up just 216.8 yards per game, also top in the NFL.
The Bills will now face what could be the biggest test of the regular season, a trip to Kansas City to play the Chiefs team that rolled over them in the AFC title game.
Though the Bills struggled to get to Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes last year, Johnson said he believes the revamped pass rush could make the difference this year.
“The front. The rush,” Johnson told ESPN. “I mean, hopefully our rush does what it’s been doing and, if they do that, it’s a beautiful thing.”