July 15, 2013 is the deadline for any franchise tagged player to be signed to a multi-year contract. Despite the premature departure of Jamaal Anderson from roster clearing up approximately $2.3M in cap space, it still seems unlikely that Michael Johnson will be signed to a long-term contract without playing out the 2013 season. While the ESPN punditocracy may brush this aside as business-as-usual for the Bengals – and by proxy the Brown Family – greater Bengaldom is still somewhat divided on this issue. Still, statistics and probability may prove to be the most compelling argument why cashing in on Johnson in now might not yield the returns everyone thinks.
Likely the most critical fact to consider is that as Cincinnati was ranked 3rd in the NFL in total sacks last season with 51.0 (1.0 sacks behind both Denver and Saint Louis) in the past 30 years, no Bengal has held a higher single season sack record than the 11.5 sacks that Johnson posted last season… and he was ranked second on the team behind Geno Atkins (12.5 sacks). Indeed, no two Bengals have ever posted a combined 24.0 sacks in a single season in Bengals’ history! The closest tandem to this was 1983 when Eddie Edwards and Reggie Williams combined for 20.5 sacks. The simple fact that all four starters as well as the majority of the rotational players to the 2012 defensive front are returning is an incredible feat in and of itself, any extension talk aside.
Another reason for the pragmatic contractual approach could also be the relatively recent taste in the front office’s mouth surrounding Robert Geathers. In 2006, Geathers posted 10.5 sacks in his third year on the team, eclipsing 2001 first round and 4th overall pick Justin Smith. The Bengals disregarded the fact that Smith had been either their first or second most productive sack artist for six straight seasons, and instead opted for the younger Geathers who was awarded a $33.7M contract in 2007, resulting in Smith signing a 6-year $45M deal with the San Francisco 49ers.