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March 9, 2014 @ 8:51 am
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Bucs Making A Hard Push For DE Johnson, Others In Free Agency

Written by Scott
Scott Reynolds


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Needing a speed rusher off the edge, the Bucs are reportedly pushing hard to sign Cincinnati free agent defensive end Michael Johnson, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. PewterReport.com has more on this story and other Tampa Bay free agent rumors.
The free agent tampering season, which is now condoned by the NFL, is underway with teams being able to talk contract parameters with agents regarding their free agent clients, although no deals can be finalized and signed until Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET, which is the official start of the 2014 NFL season. Armed with approximately $25 million worth of salary cap space, which is the 11th-most in the league, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to make a big splash.

According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Buccaneers are making a big push to pursue a very big defensive end in Cincinnati’s Michael Johnson. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound Johnson was franchised last year by the Bengals following a career-high 11.5-sack campaign, but underwhelmed with just 56 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. That prompted Cincinnati to opt to re-sign fellow defensive end Carlos Dunlap to a big contract extension instead of Johnson. The Bengals drafted Johnson’s replacement last year in second-rounder Margus Hunt and will not be re-signing him.

Johnson, a former third-round pick in 2009, is only 27 years old and has plenty of upside. He’s also one of the hottest free agents this year as seven teams, including the Minnesota Vikings, who hired former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer as the team’s head coach this offseason, have already shown interest in Johnson. Apparently Tampa Bay is one of the most interested teams.

Johnson, who entered the league with 4.69 speed in the 40-yard dash, has recorded 26.5 sacks, 205 tackles, 25 passes defensed, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in five years, but only has one double-digit sack season, which came in 2012. His previous best was a six-sack campaign in 2011.

New Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith made a similar type of free agent splash in Chicago in 2010 when he signed Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers to a six-year, $91.5-million contract to upgrade the Bears’ pass rush. Tampa Bay has a tremendous need for an impact pass rusher on the outside as the team is lacking speed off the edge. The Bucs’ leading sacker the past two years has been Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who had five sacks in 2012 and a career-high nine sacks in 2013.

Defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim were the Bucs’ starting defensive ends last year for most of the season and combined for just seven sacks. Clayborn had six of those while rebounding from a torn ACL that cost him most of the 2012 campaign, and is entering the final year of his rookie deal.

Te’o-Nesheim signed a one-year tender worth $1.323 million as a restricted free agent last year and was a huge disappointment with just one sack. He was later replaced in the starting lineup late in the season by rookie William Gholston, who finished with two sacks and made a strong case to contend for a starting job in 2014.

The Bucs also have Da’Quan Bowers, a former second-round pick in 2011, under contract for one more season. Bowers has been dinged up with minor injuries throughout his career and has been a bust thus far, notching just five sacks in three years. Tampa Bay drafted defensive end Steven Means in the fifth round last year, but he struggled in his adjustment to the NFL and rarely played.

• As PewterReport.com previously reported in January, the Bucs are expected to heavily pursue former Bears return specialist Devin Hester and cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman, who both played for Smith in Chicago. Hester told Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune that he is open to playing for Smith again.

• Due to the team's unsettled quarterback situation and the fact that the Bucs are rebuilding and are not a legitimate Super Bowl contender, Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen, who is 31, is not believed to be interested in Tampa Bay despite the fact that his former head coach, Leslie Frazier, is the Bucs' new defensive coordinator.

• NFL.com’s Ian Rappoport reports that the Bucs are interested in Chicago quarterback Josh McCown and Detroit’s Shaun Hill because Tampa Bay is looking for a backup quarterback for Mike Glennon.

• Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com reports that the Bucs will not be re-signing kicker Rian Lindell due to the return to the health of Connor Barth, who tore his Achilles tendon in his plant foot last summer in a charity basketball game.

Last modified on Tuesday, 11 March 2014 10:38

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  • avatar

    Great news all around!
  • avatar

    Owlykat: For what job do you think the Bucs should "hire" Tebo(w)? I believe the Assistant Chaplain position is open.
  • avatar

    Duh, the double QB formation obviously! Backyard football at its finest!
  • avatar

    Johnson was on the franchise tag last year and lost his starting DT which resulted in him dealing with double teams regularly. Something he shouldn't see too much of with McCoy next to him. He is a SOLID performing high character guy that proved to be a real man of the community in Cincy--a tendency he would likely continue in Tampa. I really like this move & I hope the Glazier Jet is already on the taxi way of the CVG. (Cincy Airport) --I've already stated what a waste of $$ Hester is IMO. This isn't the Hester of 6 years ago. This is the Fumbling, non scoring Hester of 2014. --Tillman is a different risk. With Tillman, the Bucs COULD have a great nickle with rush ability & great instincts. Think Barber in the slot. Banks would likely still be the 2nd CB opposite Revis on the field. Tillman is coming off a surgery though. We didn't have too much luck with that last year, and Tillman is going to want roughly 4 Mill. Risky, but if it worked that would be awesome to watch our 2ndary, and what a room for Banks & Barron to develop in. I think...as a mentor...Hill is FAR superior to McCown. Trestman had McCown playing some great football, but if Glennon falters McCown is going to want to play. Are we paying big bucks for a QB controversy distraction?? Or are we developing a team with one eye toward next years crop of rookie QB's?
  • avatar

    Top offensive free agents: Geoff Schwartz then Anthony Collins (big monsters that simply produce not underwear Olympians, and have been stuck behind higher drafted players. Top defensive free agent: Lamar Houston (toiled in Oakland could be this years justin smith) Top difficult to get: Alex Mack (it would be nice against 3-4 teams and he rocks at getting to the second level and glennon can't do anything when there is a push up the middle) and Anthony Hopkins (great slot guy with crazy speed. I don't know who I like in the draft just yet.
  • avatar

    I am with Horse, Orlovsky for a Million is the best QB bargain (unless you hire Tebo). I would still grab the best QB in the first round because Glennon can't cut it. I would go for McCluster, Johnson, Tillman, and a good MLB, and some Offensive Linemen (best available). Then hire Hester too if any money left because McCluster can also return kicks as well as play the slot.
  • avatar

    Anyone else concerned the Bucs get into a bidding war for a guy who has only one double-digit sack season? Sacks don't tell the whole story, but 3.5 is really low for a guy in a contract year. Don't think Johnson will be worth the $10M per year contract he likely gets. I thought the Bucs were going with value free agents. Please do bring on Hester and Tillman though.
  • avatar

    All out effort for Johnson makes the most sense. Quite frankly, I wouldn't spend 4 million on McCown; I would just sign Orlovsky for a one year one million deal guaranteed, and draft Murray or McCarron in 4th or 5th round. I would go with a OT at spot 7 and trade down in the 2nd round for an additional 3rd round pick.
  • avatar

    Not too sure about taking Tillman. Any input on what would happen to Banks if Tillman is brought in? Seems counter-productive to take Tillman and not develop Banks. Also seems like it would be a move that is a slap in the face to Revis. Anything that gets rid of Revis is the worst move TB could make.
  • avatar

    In today's NFL, you need three starting CBs, so signing Tillman likely wouldn't have any negative effect on Banks' development. If anything Tillman can teach Banks how to master the forced fumble and give the kid another mentor to model his game after.
  • avatar

    Great news! Hopefully the Bucs will make him an offer he can't refuse. That will clear the way for the Bucs to draft best available in May.
  • avatar

    Would like to see them go after Andre Roberts, Alex Mack, Michael Johnson, Walter Thurmond, And John McCown.
  • avatar

    Key free agents that could be worth looking after: 1) ILB Jon Beason 2) CB Cortland Finnegan/Charles Tillman 3) DT Kevin Williams 4) DE/OLB DEKOTA Watson 5) FB Erik lorig/Greg jones 6) QB josh McCown/tarvaris Jackson/Rex grossman 7) WR Andre Roberts/Sidney rice/dexter mccluster/James jones/lance Moore 8) RT Michael oher 9) TE Andrew quarless/Fred Davis 10) OG jamon Meredith/davin Joseph/Brian waters 11) DE everson griffin/Lamar Houston/justin tuck. draft heavy for interior Oline, go all out for Mack or clowney, build depth on the Dline. Many of these guys could be signed to incentive based or cheap short term guaranteed contracts; all of them have significant playing time and most of them have playoff starting experience. Just my humble opinion, go bucs!
  • avatar

    Grossman what are you smoking? must be good :-)
  • avatar

    Hill or McCown would do as a vet QB.
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