Several days, 25 to be exact, still remain until NFL free agency officially begins. While many unrestricted free agents are focusing on their bodies heading into this period of organized chaos, Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson is honing his mind.
At 6'7" and 275 pounds, Michael Johnson may be the most imposing figure on the Georgia Tech campus this spring. Majoring in business management, Johnson is spending his spring studying hedge funds, stocks and bonds. With the various cases of NFL players blowing through their money, it's encouraging to see one take the necessary measures to educate himself on finances.
This is particularly important for Johnson because he is entering free agency as one of the most sought after players. Hopefully that won't matter because the Bengals have the salary cap space to lure him back. If that's not enough, they'll likely place the franchise tag on him this year earning him almost $11M.
However, that's not the only reason Johnson's financial studies are pertinent. Before Johnson was drafted to the NFL, he was known for setting a great example in his community. Not only was he active in mentoring and community outreach projects both in Selma, AL and Atlanta, GA, he also earned valedictorian honors from Dallas County High School.
The Bengals need Michael Johnson for many reasons. First, his 11.5 sacks in 2012 were second only to Pro Bowler Geno Atkins. Johnson totaled just as many sacks in his first three seasons combined. Second, his range and quickness make it hard for opposing rushers to reach the edge and his wingspan is effective in the passing game; disengaging from blockers, batting down passes and attacking quarterbacks.
Johnson is also active through the MJ93 Foundation. While he focuses on his hometown of Selma and Atlanta as well, Johnson helps the Cincinnati youth through the Generation One Program.
The defensive line was the strongest unit of the team in 2012. Anchoring that line were Atkins and Domata Peko. Johnson was the bookend.
In just a few weeks, Johnson will enter free agency but chances are he won't remain there very long. Expect him to receive the franchise tag and a large paycheck. Just a few weeks after that, he'll finish up his classes at Georgia Tech and return to Cincinnati for summer workouts.
No matter when his career comes to an end, unlike many NFL alumnus, odds are he won't find himself in financial turmoil. Those days are far away, and I look forward to watching 93 in stripes for many games to come.