Desperately needing a speed rusher, the Buccaneers made a big splash in free agency, signing Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson to a five-year deal worth $43.75 million. Over the past two seasons, Johnson has produced 15 sacks and two forced fumbles.
The Buccaneers are poised to make a big splash at the start of free agency by signing Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson to a five-year deal worth $43.75 million, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson. The deal includes $24 million in guaranteed money.
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.
a former third-round pick in 2009, is only 27 years old and has plenty
of upside and will be coached by defensive line coach Joe Cullen, a Rod Marinelli disciple. Johnson was 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, had shown interest in him. But Johnson wanted to be in Tampa Bay to play for head coach Lovie Smith right from the start and reportedly didn't negotiate with any other team aside from Tampa Bay.
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.
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.
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
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