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Chargers add force at OLB
SAN DIEGO – The Chargers agreed to a four-year deal with outside linebacker Jarret Johnson on Tuesday.
“First of all, we’re ecstatic. We’re so excited. 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,” Johnson said of his family. “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, who spent the first nine seasons of his career on some heralded defenses in Baltimore, has played in a Ravens’ franchise-record 129 consecutive regular-season games and started 89 in a row including playoffs.
Johnson averaged 58.8 tackles, 3.4 sacks and 1.6 forced fumbles the last five seasons, starting every game for a Baltimore team that played in nine playoff games during that span.
“My goal on every play is just to dominate the man in front of me,” Johnson said. “My goal is to have a better play than you’re going to have on every down. I’m a former D-lineman, so I appreciate and have a lot of respect for technique and body position and stuff like that. I’ve never had a lot of huge stats, but I’ve always played within the scheme of the defense and I’m just a durable guy.”
Johnson adds to a group of outside linebackers that includes Shaun Phillips, Antwan Barnes, Larry English and Travis LaBoy.
“I think when you sign a veteran player that’s had the kind of success and presence he has, it helps everyone around him, and he’ll raise our level of expectation as a defensive group,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “I think he’ll bring a real attitude to our group along with his physical presence.”
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound linebacker has spent much of his career without getting much attention playing alongside Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata. Johnson recorded a career-high six sacks in 2009.
Johnson was AFC Defensive Player of the Week against the New York Jets last season with a fumble return for a touchdown, two quarterback hits and three tackles.
He’s built a reputation as a hard-nosed run stuffer who is also good in coverage.
“You wouldn’t call me a pass-rush guru. I’m a capable pass-rusher, but I think my versatility is my strength,” Johnson said. “I played Sam linebacker for Baltimore and Sam has to do a lot of jobs. Lots of dropping in coverage, different types of coverages, rushing from different sides, line up pretty much at every position.
“That’s why I’m excited about playing for John (Pagano) is he has a similar defense and I’m going to be able to line up in different spots and be able to be another weapon.”
Johnson played under Baltimore defensive backs coach and then defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano from 2008-11, the brother of Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano and now the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach.
“Chuck and I have been tight ever since he got there,” Johnson said. “I met John before one of the games a couple years ago and he’s what made this decision so easy. He’s definitely the type of coach you want to play for.”
Johnson also knows Barnes and Jared Gaither, former Ravens, and said it’s nice to know a few faces since he’s never before switched teams.