"Big V" will step in
The original plan was to have left guard Allen Barbre move to right tackle and have Stefen Wisniewski take his spot if this situation arose, but the Eagles have since had a change of heart. They now intend to have rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai man the right tackle position in Johnson's absence.
The thinking goes like this: Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and the rest of the coaching staff has been impressed with Vaitai (6-foot-6, 315), a fifth-round pick out of TCU, and believe that moving Barbre would only further disrupt O-line chemistry.
Still, there is a leap of faith involved here, with the coaches only having practice and preseason tape to go off with Vaitai, who is now charged with protecting rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.
"That’s fair," said offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who described Vaitai as a natural pass protector who has made big strides in the run game. "But I think one of the answers to that is he's running scout team all the time, right? So, he's getting a lot of reps versus a very good defense and versus a very good defensive line.
"That certainly gives you indicators, because when you're running scout team the defense is going full speed, they're going hard. So, it's really a good measure."
Johnson signed a five-year, $56 million deal this offseason that included over $35 million in guarantees. As ESPN's Field Yates reported, the remaining guarantees void in Johnson's contract as a result of this suspension.
Johnson's deal includes a $10 million signing bonus. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Johnson will have to forfeit ten-seventeenths of the prorated amount, or over $1 million. He also forfeits ten-seventeenths of his roster bonus divided over the remaining years of the contract.
His base salary of close to $8 million for next season was previously guaranteed.
Johnson can still net much of the money in his deal, but he'll have to remain on the team and earn it year-to-year.
According to the NFL Policy on Performance Enhancing Drugs, a suspended player "will not be paid, nor may he participate in team activities, use the Club’s facilities or have contact with any Club officials except to arrange off-site medical treatment."
Fellow offensive lineman Brandon Brooks was asked recently if there will be a "Lane-whisperer" of sorts who will help keep him looped in while he's serving his suspension.
"Lane is a grown-ass man, so it is on him to, no matter what happens, to stay involved, ask any questions that he has outside of here, stuff like that," Brooks replied. "So there is no 'Lane-whisperer.'"
"It's unfortunate is what it is," Brooks continued. "He's a really good player. When he's not out there, he will definitely be missed. It sucks. You never want to lose a player of his caliber. But it happens, it happens."
In the event of strike three...
A player that violates the policy for a third time "will be banished from the NFL for a period of at least two seasons, subject to any appeal. Such a Player may petition the Commissioner for reinstatement after 24 months. Reinstatement, and any terms and conditions thereof, shall be matters solely within the Commissioner’s sound discretion."
In other words, Johnson will want to avoid going down that road.