Browns Safety John Johnson Breaks Silence After Being Released

John Johnson III

Getty Images John Johnson III has been released by the Browns.

The Cleveland Browns are releasing veteran safety John Johnson III — a move that was rumored for much of the offseason.

Johnson was one of the first big free agent signings for general manager Andrew Berry in 2021. He signed a three-year deal worth $33.75 million. Johnson was the No. 3 paid strong safety in the league in terms of value, behind only two Seahawks in Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs.

With the move, the Browns will save $9.75 million on the cap with a dead cap hit of only $3.75 million. With the team needing to clear some cap space, it was a logical move, especially with new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz coming in.

Johnson spoke with after the release, thanking the Browns but also assuring that he feels he has a lot more left in the tank.

“I appreciate the Cleveland Browns for the opportunity,” Johnson told “The city is truly one of a kind. I wish that I could’ve done more while here; however, I know that my best ball is ahead of me. I pray great things for my former teammates.”

Browns Confirm Release of Johnson at Combine

Johnson had been solid for the Browns, notching 162 tackles and four interceptions over two seasons. However, he did not reach the heights he did with the Los Angeles Rams. He notched elite grades on Pro Football Focus while with LA but has been average with Cleveland, coming off a year where he graded out at 62.8.

But Johnson became a vocal leader for the Browns, both on the field and in the locker room. Browns general manager Andrew Berry thanked him for his contributions while confirming the release from the combine on Tuesday.

“First thought is gratitude when it comes to what he’s done on the field and in the locker room for us,” Berry said from the combine. “We did — after looking at the roster and thinking about where we want to be in 2023 — thought it would be the best move for the organization to part ways. But that doesn’t minimize what John was able to do while he was with our team.

Browns Eyeing Jessie Bates as Replacement

While the Browns saved the cap room, they’ll now have to find a replacement for Johnson, who had started all 32 games he appeared in over the last two seasons.

A name the Browns have been frequently linked to is Bengals’ impending free agent Jessie Bates III. Mary Kay Cabot of confirmed that Bates is a player the Browns will pursue this offseason to fill in for Johnson.

Bates was a second-round pick of the Bengals in 2018 and has established himself as one of the better safeties in the league. He was a second-team All-Pro in 2020 and is coming off a season where he had 71 tackles and four interceptions. He graded out at 76.8 overall on Pro Football Focus last season and had an elite run support grade — something the Browns could desperately utilize.

The Browns have some other holes to fill this offseason, so expect to see some more roster moves before free agency begins on March 15.

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