The Baltimore Ravens have lost another defensive starter to free agency, as linebacker Jarret Johnson agreed to a four-year deal with the San Diego Chargers on Wednesday. The financial terms of the deal have not been announced.
Johnson, who will turn 31 before the start of the 2012 season, has played his entire nine-year career with the Ravens. A fourth-round draft choice out of the University of Alabama in 2003, Johnson was renowned for his locker room presence and leadership. He holds the franchise-record with 80 consecutive starts and 129 consecutive games played.
Johnson was a key cog in the Ravens’ run defense, which ranked second-best in the NFL. He played on the opposite side of Terrell Suggs, recording 56 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2011.
While Johnson’s departure leaves a slight hole on the defense, general manager Ozzie Newsome will likely fill Johnson’s spot in the draft or in free agency.
However, third-year linebacker Paul Kruger, who made serious strides in 2011, could be a legitimate candidate to replace Johnson. In fact, Kruger often replaced Johnson on third-down and pass-rushing situations last season, as he recorded a career-high 5.5 sacks and proved to be one the team’s most consistent pass rushers.
As for Johnson, he joins a Chargers team that has desperately sought to find a compliment to outside linebacker Shaun Phillips in the team’s 3-4 scheme. He will likely be used in much of the same way he was used in Baltimore last season, playing first and second down for San Diego, then being spelled by another former Raven, Antwan Barnes, in pass-rushing situations.