Heading into the 2013 NFL offseason the Cincinnati Bengals had $54M in cap space and have decided not to give defensive end Michael Johnson a lengthy extension. Instead, the Bengals have chosen to franchise tag Johnson which will cost them approximately $11.2M this year.
At 26-years-old Johnson had a breakout year last season with 11.5 sacks and a career-high 35 solo-tackles, but it didn’t earn him an extension. Reportedly, there was “not much traction” in long-term talks between the two as conversation about an extension will be postponed for now. Andre Smith appears to be the next hurdle as he did a great job protecting Andy Dalton in 2012 and is also a free agent.
Smith is seeking a deal worth around $9M a year, but if owner Mike Brown gives the offensive lineman a long-term deal he may open pandora’s box with Johnson.
With the franchise tag deadline coming up on March 4th, the Bengals had to make a decision and have decided to try their hand with Smith in free agency who was the sixth overall pick just four years ago.
It’s well-documented that the franchise tag isn’t favored by NFL players as it says that an organization isn’t ready to make a long-term commitment, however they aren’t ready to let him go. The Bengals have every right to use the tag as does any NFL team, but to think that this move won’t have any blowback is extremely naive.
The AFC North has the Baltimore Ravens returning as Super Bowl Champions, but the Bengals aren’t going battle to rival Joe Flacco and company without a solid force defense.