Carolina Panthers
Panthers Making the Case: Leonard Johnson
Carolina Panthers

Panthers Making the Case: Leonard Johnson

Updated Mar. 5, 2020 2:21 a.m. ET

Should the Carolina Panthers extend Leonard Johnson or let him walk in 2017?

As the offseason approaches and free agency gets closer, we make the case for and against signing each Carolina Panthers free agent. For this edition, we examine the case of cornerback, Leonard Johnson.

EXTEND:

It was just his first season in Carolina and Johnson was only active for the last ten games of the season. However, in those ten games he essentially took over as the team’s slot cornerback option. He ended up playing 437 defensive snaps, a little over 64-percent of the team’s total. He was inexperienced with the defense and endured some growing pains, but starting next to two rookies his season could have gone worse.

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Johnson had 30 tackles, one sack, and was not called for any pass interference penalties during that span. The secondary remains young and while growing together scraping pieces after laying a foundation will be a tough decision to make. Continuity is key and Johnson can bring some of that back after ten games playing a majority of the defensive snaps.

LET WALK:

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    Johnson wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t pretty either. As mentioned, he was the only corner to take a majority of snaps in the last ten weeks and not be a rookie. However, against usually tougher competition, the two rookies out shined him in almost every instance. Johnson ranked 110th among NFL cornerbacks in terms of Pro Football Focus grading. While Teddy Williams only played 41 snaps for the Panthers, Johnson graded out worse than him, and Williams is a free agent himself.

    Another rookie, Zack Sanchez, suffered an injury last season that gave Johnson his opportunity. With Sanchez back, younger and easier to sign for the future, he should be who the Panthers are looking to start in the slot next season.

    Given the experience Johnson now has, another team may elect to give him a chance to earn a role in the slot. The Panthers should view Johnson as low end depth at best and if he wants to compete elsewhere, so be it.

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