After putting the franchise tag on Michael Johnson last season, the Cincinnati Bengals are moving on from the talented defensive end, who is going to be one of the most coveted free agents out there, picking up a lot of interest from the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Johnson had what some would say a disappointing season with only 3.5 sacks, but there is more than numbers to his game. He wants to stay with the Bengals and they would like to keep him, but not if it’s going to cost more than $7 million a season. Johnson is 27 and isn’t an explosive player. He’s very good against the run and solid against the pass, but part of very good defensive system, instead of a player who makes things happen on his own.
So while the Bengals and Johnson aren’t talking at the moment, the sharks are circling in the water. Both the Vikings and the Eagles appeared first, but if it comes down to a matter of money, the Vikings are $40 million under the cap while the Eagles “only” have $24 million to spend.
The Chicago Bears, wanting to change up their defensive end situation and generally start going in a different direction defensively after being one of the worst in the league last season, have also put their name in the hat, but it’ll probably come down to who can offer Johnson the most money.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Lovie Smith looking for a DE as possibly his first signing are also in the mix, and Smith does have an appeal for defensive players which might help the Bucs win in this one.
Johnson is five seasons into his NFL career, playing all of them with Cincinnati. He has missed only one game through the five years, notching a total of 26.5 sacks, including 11.5 in the 2012 season.