Poll: If Released, Should the Bengals Bring Michael Johnson Back?
Nov 30, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Michael Johnson (90) tackles Cincinnati Bengals running backGiovani Bernard
(25) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-13. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Recently, Mike Florio of NBC’s Profootballtalk has suggested that the Buccaneers will need to make a decision regarding whether or not to keep former Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson after a very poor 2014 season.
Over the off-season, Johnson signed a mega-deal worth $43.875 million (over five years). The Buccaneers expected him to team with Gerald McCoy the way he did with Geno Atkins and really put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This expectation never panned out as Johnson spent much of 2014 injured and was underwhelming because of it.
As pointed out by Florio, the Buccaneers aren’t strangers to cutting a big-time player in order to save money; they did so with Darrelle Revis prior to the 2014 season. It’s this decision that seems to make Florio wonder about the possibility of cutting Michael Johnson.
Although it’s a long shot that this actually happens, if in fact the Buccaneers decided to cut Michael Johnson, one must think he would command significantly less money. This would likely cause Johnson to seek a franchise that would ensure he gets his career back on track, hence making a return to Cincinnati a very realistic option (Minnesota with Mike Zimmer would be another option that would make sense). Interestingly, Johnson’s agent would seem to concur if this decision presented itself to Johnson. So, if the Buccaneers decided signing Johnson was a mistake and choose to cut him, should the Bengals make a move for Johnson.
Michael Johnson’s return to Cincinnati makes sense for some obvious reasons. The Bengals’ defensive line really struggled this past year. This is in sharp contrast to when Johnson was manning the right side of the line. Also, the AFC North is returning to its “ground and pound” roots; every team in the division now possesses a potentially potent running attack and it just so happens that Johnson is particularly good against the run. Johnson return to Cincinnati could help revive the defensive line while helping the defense deal with an ever burgeoning AFC North running attack.
If Johnson were cut, he would command much less money than he did a year ago. It’s no secret that many fans and the Bengals organization wanted to see Johnson remain in stripes. But his market value made his retention seem impossible and the Bengals were forced to chose between he and Carlos Dunlap. This wouldn’t be the case this go around as Johnson would almost certainly have to sign cheaply. Affordability and the possibility of his return sparking a once dominant line all makes Johnson’s return sound great. But before the Bengals hit the “yes” button on a hypothetical return, some realities should be considered.
Much has changed since Johnson wore the stripes about a year ago. Johnson’s productivity often relied upon a healthy and dominant Geno Atkins allowing him one-on-one match-ups on the outside. Since tearing his ACL in 2013, Atkins has yet to return to his dominant form. It’s entirely possible that he does so in 2015, but nothing is a given following such a significant injury. The Bengals are likely going to draft another defensive tackle early in the upcoming draft, but this doesn’t mean the incoming tackle would impact the line in the “pocket-collapsing” way Atkins did for a few years.
Also, the Bengals now possess two young, affordable defensive ends in Margus Hunt and Will Clarke. Both players were drafted with an understanding that they were “project” players: Hunt was especially inexperienced, so heading into their third and second years respectively, it’s entirely reasonable to expect at least one, if not both, to become effective rotational players in the coming year. This would leave the Bengals with three to four effective defensive ends (Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry being the other two).
Further, the Bengals are likely to draft at least one defensive end in the coming draft. With so many defensive ends presumably on the roster, is there any room for Michael Johnson and a contract that would be much more expensive than any rookie deal? With a large 2016 class of free agents, the Bengals may want to “roll over” a significant amount of cap space to the 2016 season in order to retain many of their upcoming free agents.
After considering all sides of the issue, if in fact Michael Johnson is cut by the Buccaneers, would you want the Bengals bring him back into the fold? Visit the ballot box below and provide us with an in-depth opinion in the comments section.