After nine years with the Ravens, linebacker Jarret Johnson knew it was time.
To go, that is.
Johnson, a noted run-stopper who has been sorely missed in this struggling defense, signed with the San Diego Chargers as a free agent after nine seasons in Baltimore.
The Ravens were changing, the salary cap didn't leave much wiggle room and a younger linebacker in Paul Kruger was emerging.
"I wanted to finish my career there," Johnson said of Baltimore. "But I kind of knew the writing was on the wall going into the year (with) the way Kruger was coming on, the way things were kind of working out, other guys' contracts. You can't pay everybody. ... They made it pretty clear pretty early that it wasn't going to work out."
The feeling will be odd for Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Johnson isn’t the only former player he’ll see in San Diego.
"It’ll be very strange. They’ve got a number of ex-Ravens there. A lot of guys. Chris Carr is there now, Jared Gaither, Antwan Barnes, Le’Ron McClain – all guys that have been integral parts of our program and we consider Ravens," Harbaugh said. “It will be a great for a while before the game, but after the game starts they’re Chargers."
Johnson already reached out to Ravens running back Ray Rice for some pregame trash-talk.
"Jarret Johnson is one of my good buddies, and it was tough to see him go because he epitomized what it was to be a Raven," Rice said. "I actually got a funny text from him. He sad, ‘Guys, you better bring your game faces.’ But that’s Double J. He was a no-nonsense kind of guy here.
"So I’m sure between the lines everything will be physical, but after the game it will be great to shake hands, take a picture with him and let him know that we still love him."
Linebacker Terrell Suggs formed an elite tandem with Johnson as the Ravens had the NFL’s No. 2-ranked defense last season. They’ve slipped to 23rd without him and Suggs, who only recently returned from an Achilles tear.
"You’re talking about my brother," Suggs said. "I’m definitely going to give him a hug. Me and Jarret, we came in the same class together (in 2003) and it was nine years me and him. It’s definitely going to be a little emotional to see him wearing a different color and playing for a different team."