Working out a real investment in defensive end Michael Johnson has weighed on the Cincinnati Bengals since hitting him with the franchise tag early this offseason. An organization infamous for its perennial cheapness appears extremely eager to keep one of the league’s best young defensive lines together but doing so would buck a trend when it comes to the Johnson negotiations.
“The most important offseason news that people want to know about though is if there has been progress toward securing a long-term deal for Johnson,” wrote Joe Reedy of Cincinnati.com after relaying comments from Johnson. “Both sides have until July 15 to reach one or else Johnson will play on the one-year franchise tag, which is worth $11.175 million.”
Usually, progress isn’t made until late June or early July, but the Bengals have not signed a player to an extension the season they’ve tagged him since Rudi Johnson in 2005.
The Bengals’ defensive line is shaping up quite beautifully with Johnson (age 26), defensive tackle Geno Atkins (25) and end Carlos Dunlap (24), with three players who battled at rival colleges meshing so well — Georgia alum Atkins pivoting between Florida‘s Dunlap and Georgia Tech‘s in the late-aughts. Atkins’ 2011 and 2012 performances have left him regarded by many as the league’s best 4-3 defensive tackle by miles while Dunlap and Johnson graded out ninth and 13th among 4-3 ends last year by Pro Football Focus.
If Cincy works out a deal with Johnson, the next major hurdles will be working out contracts with Dunlap and Atkins, who are set to become free agents in 2014.