The Eagles are showing interest in one of 2014’s top free agents, according to Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com, who reports that Chip Kelly‘s team is eyeing edge defender Michael Johnson. A 4-3 defensive end in Cincinnati, Bennett could draw interest from teams like the Eagles, who may view him as a fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker, writes McManus.
Johnson, a Georgia Tech product, was franchise-tagged by the Bengals for the 2013 season after an incredibly successful 2012 campaign in which he tallied 52 tackles (35 solo) and 11.5 sacks. Considered a high-ceiling prospect coming into the 2009 NFL Draft, Johnson fell all the way to the third round, when the Bengals selected him with the 70th overall pick. The prospective free agent has been linked to several teams this offseason, including the Vikings.
While providing excellent run defense has become Johnson’s calling card, he demonstrated some versatility in zone coverage schemes last season, as McManus exhibits with visual evidence in his piece. In fact, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) found that Johnson dropped into coverage 31 times last season.
The Eagles currently have over $24MM in estimated cap room, so the team could likely afford to make Johnson a lucrative offer. However, a move for the Bengals free agent would raise one intriguing question: What would happen to current starters Trent Cole and Connor Barwin? The two starters are firmly entrenched in their roles within the team and were both effective in 2013.