1:21pm: Schefter hears that Johnson won’t make quite $24MM, tweeting that the four-year deal will in fact be worth $20MM, with $6MM coming in 2015.
11:25am: It is a four-year, $24MM deal for Johnson, according to Tomasson (via Twitter).
It will be a homecoming of sorts for Johnson, who was drafted by Cincinnati in the third round of the 2009 draft. The Georgia Tech product played for the Bengals for five seasons before signing a five-year, $43.75MM deal with the Buccaneers last offseason. Tampa Bay released Johnson just a few days ago, saving themselves $2MM of cap room and setting the stage for Johnson’s reunion with Cincinnati. Rapoport (via Twitter) adds that Johnson made $16MM during his one year in Tampa Bay, and there are no offsets in his contract, so whatever he earns from the Bengals will be in addition to that $16MM figure. As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets, Johnson was already due $7MM from the Buccaneers and is now set to make around $14MM in 2015 alone.
Johnson had a breakout season in 2012, contributing 11.5 sacks and grading out as the 14th-best 4-3 defensive end according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required). He combined with Carlos Dunlap to form an imposing pair of bookends along the Bengals’ defensive line. Cincinnati put the franchise tag on Johnson after the 2012 campaign, and although his sack totals fell off considerably in 2013, PFF listed him as the 4th-best 4-3 DE in the league, largely as a result of his excellent play against the run. The performance made him a hot commodity last offseason, and he ultimately signed with Tampa Bay as the Buccaneers looked to bolster their front seven.
But Johnson’s lone season in Tampa was disappointing to say the least. He accrued just four sacks and even his run defense full off a cliff as he finished near the bottom of the league’s defensive ends per PFF. However, his talent is undeniable, and the Vikings recently brought him in for a visit that by all accounts left both sides with a good feeling. In the end, though, the attraction of playing for his original club was just too much. As Johnson said, “[Cincinnati] is my home. I feel like outside of Selma (Johnson’s Alabama hometown) this is my home” (Twitter link to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press).
Cincinnati, meanwhile, gets a quality player who should bring a lift to its defensive line, and a player who the team knows will fit into its system. Furthermore, the Bengals will get a third-round compensatory choice for losing Johnson last season, even though he is now back on the team, and because he was re-acquired after having been released, he will not count against the team’s compensatory pick formula next year. All in all, Johnson and the Bengals appear to have made out very well today.