With several free agents set to hit he open market in two months, the Cincinnati Bengals have several tough decisions to make regarding players who’ve been pivotal to the success of 30 wins and three-straight playoff appearances over the past three years.
The franchise tag is a nice thing to have to keep someone at least one more year while paying them handsomely, and there are several players worthy of being tagged. but the man who got the tag last year is unlikely to so again this year.
Defensive end Michael Johnson has played at a Pro Bowl level over the past two seasons, and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has made it no secret he loves MJ and wants him back.
That’s unlikely to happen in Cincinnati, but that reunion could happen with another team if Zimmer takes ahead-coaching job with a team who pushes to sign Johnson. They won’t meet much resistance from the Bengals, who won’t be using the franchise tag to keep him from hitting free agency again.
Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer agrees, as he doesn’t see Johnson back in Cincinnati under the tag:
The Bengals could carry $8 million to next year’s cap, which is expected to increase slightly. With the extensions signed by Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, the preliminary estimates are they will have $27 million in cap space when the new league year begins on March 11.
Cincinnati will have 11 unrestricted free agents with defensive end Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins expected to command the most interest. If the Bengals tag Johnson again, the cap hit would be over $13 million, which is why it is highly unlikely.
That last line could also read “and that’s 13 million reasons why he won’t be tagged.” Mike Brown simply doesn’t operate that way. If you’re a great player, he’ll give you once tag as a last-chance opportunity to re-sign you, and if no deal is reached, he’ll move on and be happy with his decision.
The only player I could ever see Brown tagging twice is Andy Dalton, but that’s a discussion for another day.