This comes after he was released by Cincinnati as the team trimmed its roster down to 53 on Saturday. He was scheduled to play out the final season of the four-year, $20 million deal he signed in March 2015.
Dehner noted there was interest from other teams, but he chose to stick with Cincinnati at the same salary:
Paul Dehner Jr. @pauldehnerjr
Bengals understood he could have gone elsewhere. And they could have cut his salary, but they did right by him to bring him back at basically same deal. Lot of respect between these two sides. That's part of why he came back to Cincinnati in 2015. https://t.co/CagoTAJcBy
While the news of his release on Saturday caught some by surprise, talk of his return started almost instantly. Cincinnati needed to get its roster shaped up for the regular season, and cutting Johnson allowed the organization to do so. The only question surrounding a potential return was whether the team would bring him back at a similar salary ($4.5 million) or ask him to accept a lower figure.
Johnson has made a living by creating pressure on the edge. He recorded 202 combined tackles and 26.5 sacks—including an 11.5-sack campaign in 2012—during the first five years of his career. Those impressive numbers led to the 6'7", 280-pound lineman signing a five-year, $43.8 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following the 2013 season.
However, Johnson played just one year in Tampa, as he was cut following a 27-tackle, four-sack performance.
That led to him returning to the place where he enjoyed plenty of success early on in his career: Cincinnati. Back in Marvin Lewis' scheme, Johnson piled up 136 combined sacks and 13.5 sacks in three years. He had five sacks last year despite playing in a career-low 60 percent of the team's defensive snaps, as The Athletic's Jay Morrison pointed out.
As the decline in snaps indicates, Johnson is a complementary piece to the Bengals defensive line rather than the star. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are the focal points of the line, with both signing lucrative extensions in August. And with second-year edge-rusher Carl Lawson coming off an 8.5-sack rookie campaign, Cincinnati has no shortage of players who can create pressure.
Johnson, 31, proved in recent years that he still has something left in the tank. Rather than leaving once again to explore other opportunities, the veteran decided to put himself in the best possible situation and return to a familiar system.