Cincinnati Bengals Place Franchise Tag on Michael Johnson

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Cincinnati Bengals Place Franchise Tag on Michael Johnson
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals will use their franchise tag on dynamic defensive end Michael Johnson.

 

UPDATE: Friday, March 1 at 1:55 p.m. ET by Matt Fitzgerald

The Bengals' official Twitter page broke the news officially this afternoon:

---End of update---


ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter had the story on Friday before it became official:

This is a move that the Bengals can definitely afford to make, as they entered the offseason with a league-high $55.1 million in cap room (h/t ESPN). As Chris Wesseling of NFL.com indicated on Thursday, the figure moved from $120.6 million to $123 million to give teams slightly more flexibility.

Johnson is among several marquee free agents that the Bengals have to make tough decisions on, but retaining him was clearly a big priority, as he got the tag over RT Andre Smith.

At 6'7" and 270 pounds with stunning athleticism for his size, the 2009 third-round pick enjoyed a career-year in Cincinnati in 2012. Finally settling in at defensive end after some prior experiments at linebacker, he racked up 11.5 sacks—nearly doubling his prior career total.

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Lined up on the weak side next to All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who had 12.5 sacks himself, the tandem was a nightmare for opposing offensive line units on the left side.

Atkins' presence helps draw double-teams, which frees up Johnson on the outside. His combination of speed and quickness make him a load to handle for left tackles isolated on the edge.

This is an especially savvy move by Cincinnati, because it is possible that Johnson could have a drop-off from this big year should he have netted a lucrative, long-term deal.

By keeping him on the hook for one more season while still paying him just over $11 million, Johnson will need to prove himself as a Pro Bowl-caliber player again before the Bengals commit to him for a multi-year contract.

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