There was much speculation that once he hit free agency, long-time Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson would leave Baltimore to go play for his former defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano, now the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
"First of all, we're ecstatic. We're so excited," Johnson told the Chargers' website. "Even though it's tough to leave Baltimore and there's a lot of mixed emotions because I've been there so long, we couldn't be happier with our decision to become a Charger. One of our biggest decisions, we wanted to be in a good area on a good team, and the Chargers fit that criteria to the max. It's a great area, a great organization, and this team's got the potential to be awesome. That's something I want to be a part of."
Johnson opted to go play for Chuck's brother instead. John Pagano is the first-year defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, who signed Johnson today to a four-year deal. Terms weren't disclosed.
"That's part of what made it so easy," Johnson told the website. "Chuck and I have been tight ever since he got there. I've met his brother before. I met John before one of the games a couple years ago and he's what made this decision so easy. I knew him, I knew about him, I know the kind of guy his brother is, so he's definitely the type of coach you want to play for."
Johnson, who had spent his whole nine-year career in Baltimore, leaves the Ravens short two defensive starters after defensive end Cory Redding opted to sign a deal with the Colts earlier today. The Ravens were interested in re-signing both players, but they also understood that their salary cap situation made it likely that they'd lose most of their unrestricted free agents.
Johnson, 30, had been one of the most unheralded and solid members of one of the league's best defenses.
Drafted in the fourth round in 2003 out of Alabama, he started every game over the past four seasons. His streak of 130 consecutive games played stood as the longest in team history.
He had a relatively quiet 2011 campaign, finishing with 56 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. Johnson also found himself on the sidelines more and more in pass situations with the Ravens opting to use Paul Kruger in an effort to get more pass rush. However, Johnson's primary value was in stopping the run and sealing the edge, and providing leadership for the defense.
Johnson was also one of the most respected and liked guys in the Ravens' locker room. Kruger and former second-round pick Sergio Kindle are the in-house replacements for Johnson, though they also are looking to add linebackers either in the draft or in free agency.
Inside linebacker Jameel McClain is also a free agent.