Cincinnati Bengals impending free-agent defensive end Michael Johnson is set to hit the market this offseason and Minnesota could be the likely landing spot.
Johnson, 26, was scheduled to become a free agent last year, but the Bengals applied the franchise tag on him. Failing to lock Johnson up long term last offseason, Cincinnati gave a $40 million contract extension to defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
With big money used on Dunlap, it seems less likely that the Bengals will allocate big money to both ends.
Enter the Vikings.
New Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer happens to be a big fan of his former player. This is what Zimmer had to say about Johnson before landing his gig with the Vikings:
“I have a ton of respect for him,” defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said via Bengals.com. “I remember when he came here he had a lot of things said about him when he came out of college; he wouldn’t finish, he didn’t do this or didn’t do that, but Michael has become a good football player. He’s very conscientious, he plays extremely hard. He’s one of these guys that we’ve build up into what we’re looking for here, the kind of guys that we want, the kind of personalities, the kind of caring about one another in the locker room. I can’t say enough good things about him … hopefully, we’ll get him back. If not, I know that Michael will be successful wherever he goes.”
Well, Minnesota is a very realistic opportunity.
Defensive end Brian Robison was recently locked to a long-term deal, but the Vikings failed to agree to contract extensions with Everson Griffen and Jared Allen. While re-signing Griffen and/or Allen remains to be an option, Johnson is younger and had a lot of success playing under Zimmer.
Johnson posted 11.5 sacks in 2012. That number was down to 3.5 in 2013, but he recorded 56 tackles and, according to Pro Football Focus, is ranked as the No. 4 overall 4-3 end in the NFL.