Michael Johnson

Bengals DE Michael Johnson To Miss Several Weeks

Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson will miss a “few” weeks after suffering a knee injury in Thursday night’s contest against the Ravens, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com reports Johnson suffered a sprained MCL.

Johnson is a starter for Cincinnati, although he doesn’t typically play a full complement of snaps given that the Bengals often deploy sub-package rushers. With Johnson sidelined, those backups — including Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis, and rookie Sam Hubbard — will now be called on to see more action. Johnson also occasionally moves inside to defensive tackle on pass downs, so the Bengals will need to find a replacement for that role (both Willis and Hubbard are capable of shifting inside).

Johnson was nominally released by the Bengals at final cutdowns, although the transaction was simply a procedural move. Cincinnati wanted to keep rookie cornerback Davontae Harris on its initial roster so it would be able to place him on injured reserve/designated to return. So Johnson was released with the knowledge that he’d be re-signed the following day, and his new contract features the exact same salary he was originally set to collect.

Johnson, a second-round pick of the Bengals in 2009, has been with Cincinnati for every season of his NFL career save for 2014, which he spent with Tampa Bay. The 31-year-old has appeared in 142 total games (106 starts), posting 44 sacks during that time.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals To Re-Sign DE Michael Johnson

The Bengals will re-sign defensive end Michael Johnson after releasing him on Saturday, tweets Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer. It’s a one-year deal for Johnson, who was not forced to accept a pay cut from his previous salary.

Johnson had been a Bengals starter in five of the past six seasons, but third-round selections of Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson last year — along with 2018 third-rounder Sam Hubbard — made the 31-year-old talent a less important commodity. Johnson registered five sacks last season and has 44 in his career.

Now that he’s back in the fold, Johnson is likely to see action at both defensive end and tackle, the latter in nickel situations.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sunday NFL Transactions: AFC North

Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four AFC North teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions for the Ravens, Bengals, Browns, and Steelers are noted below.

Additionally, as of 12:00pm CT today, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.

Here are Sunday’s AFC North transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day:

Baltimore Ravens

Practice squad:

Cincinnati Bengals

Signed:

Practice squad:

Cleveland Browns

Claimed:

Cut:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Practice squad:

* = international player
** = practice squad exception

Bengals Trim Roster To 53

For the time being at least, Michael Johnson will not be part of the Bengals’ 53-man roster. The longtime starting defensive end does not appear among Cincinnati’s regular-season contingent, signalling a changing of the guard opposite Carlos Dunlap.

While Johnson could well return, with Cincinnati.com’s Paul Dehner Jr. tweeting this is a possibility because of the team trying to protect as many young players from the waiver wire as possible, he’s again off the roster. Johnson spent a year with the Buccaneers in 2014 but returned to Cincinnati a year later.

He’s been a Bengals starter in five of the past six seasons, but third-round selections of Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson last year — along with 2018 third-rounder Sam Hubbard — made the 31-year-old talent a less important commodity. Johnson registered five sacks last season and has 44 in his career.

As for the rest of the Bengals’ cuts, here are the other players who aren’t on the 53-man roster.

Released as vested veterans:

Waived:

Placed on IR:

The placement of Barkley on IR and the waiving of Woodside leaves Jeff Driskel as the Bengals’ only Andy Dalton backup. It would be logical if the Bengals examined the waiver wire this weekend for a possible signal-caller addition.

AFC North Notes: Elam, Lundy, Johnson, Bryant

Let’s take a look at some injury notes from around the AFC North on this first Sunday of training camp:

  • Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun writes that Ravens safety Matt Elam may have torn his biceps and will undergo an MRI today. It is feared that the injury may be season-ending (via Twitter). “I’m sure it’s very disappointing for him,” said head coach John Harbaugh. “He’s very serious in great shape and then has a freak injury.”
  • In addition to Elam, early signs could mean the Ravens’ secondary may be in injury peril again, with cornerbacks Tray Walker and Rashaan Melvin both hurting their hamstrings, writes Clifton Brown of CSN Mid-Atlantic (via Twitter).
  • Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets that Browns head coach Mike Pettine said he will talk with GM Ray Farmer later today to discuss adding a running back or two. After rookie Luke Lundy left practice with an injury today, the team is down to Isaiah Crowell and Shaun Draughn as its only healthy backs. Duke Johnson and Terrance West have already gone down, and Pat MaManamon of ESPN details a few other players who have suffered injuries in camp so far.
  • Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson was carted off the practice field with a knee injury, but head coach Marvin Lewis said he doesn’t believe the injury is major, according to Sirius XM NFL Radio (via Twitter). Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that the early word is that he suffered a torn MCL, which would likely cost him time early in the season (via Twitter).
  • Not to be left out, the Steelers are also dealing with an injury to a key contributor in second-year receiver Martavis Bryant, who had a procedure to fix an infection with his elbow, reports Jeremy Fowler of ESPN (via Twitter). Luckily for Steeler nation, he is only expected to miss a few days.

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

NFC North Notes: Peterson, Bennett, Lions

A day after releasing a statement indicating that he doesn’t want to be traded and that his absence from OTAs is simply about securing his future with the Vikings, Adrian Peterson took to Twitter to rant about NFL contracts. While many of the running back’s broader points – involving the lack of agency players have compared to teams when it comes to getting out of contracts – are accurate, it’s difficult to have any sympathy for Peterson, given the circumstances.

Peterson, after all, is poised to enter his age-30 season as the NFL’s highest-paid running back, and the Vikings appear entirely willing to pay him that $12.75MM salary rather than asking him to reduce it, despite the fact that the 30-year-old was investigated for child abuse last year. While many players could rightly gripe about teams failing to honor contracts, the rhetoric doesn’t sound very effective coming from Peterson right now.

Let’s check out a few more items from across the NFC North….

  • Michael Johnson took a free agent visit to Minnesota to meet with the Vikings before he decided to return to Cincinnati this offseason. As Johnson told SiriusXM NFL Radio today (Twitter link), he didn’t think he’d like Minnesota, but he did — he simply preferred to “go home” instead of signing with the Vikes.
  • Bears tight end Martellus Bennett continues to be absent from Chicago’s offseason program due to a contract dispute, writes Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com. A report last month suggested that Bennett wanted a new deal and that the Bears were considering trading him.
  • Lions president Tom Lewand spoke to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press about the team’s increased focus on adding high-character players to its roster.

AFC Mailbags: Jets, Chiefs, Raiders, Bengals

We took a look at ESPN.com’s NFC mailbags earlier this morning. Let’s now shift our focus to the AFC…

  • Rich Cimini wouldn’t be in favor of the Jets sacrificing a future first-rounder to secure Marcus Mariota at the second pick. However, the writer would be in favor of swapping the team’s first and third rounder to switch spots with Washington.
  • The Chiefs would presented with a “dilemma” if running back Todd Gurley is available at pick number-eighteen, says Adam Teicher. Gurley would certainly be the best player available at that point in the draft, but the team already has a stud running back in Jamaal Charles.
  • Meanwhile, among players who could “reasonably be available” for the Chiefs first pick, Teicher points to Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson, Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat, Florida State center Cameron Erving and USC wideout Nelson Agholor could be potential targets.
  • Bill Williamson suggests the Raiders could target a guard in the middle rounds to pair with Gabe Jackson, sending Khalif Barnes to more of a reserve role.
  • Following the additions of Pat Sims and Michael Johnson, Coley Harvey has been told that the Bengals have no open spots on the defensive line. However, the writer believes the team could still pursue a rookie lineman if they could get good value at the draft spot.

FA Notes: Newman, Johnson, Clay, Lowery

As Peter King of The MMQB.com observes in his latest column, spending big in free agency often doesn’t translate to wins in the next season or two. As such, this year’s spenders – such as the Jets, Eagles, Dolphins, and Jaguars – should be wary about how much of an on-field impact their signings will have in 2015. A team like the Ravens, on the other hand, has enjoyed great success by consistently letting big free agents leave for other teams, then collecting compensatory picks for those players and replenishing the roster with young talent.

Here are a few more free agent updates:

  • Veteran cornerback Terence Newman will turn 37 in September, but he intends to continue his playing career. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter), Newman visited the Vikings yesterday, and is headed to New England today to meet with the Patriots.
  • When Michael Johnson‘s new four-year contract with the Bengals was initially reported, figures of $20MM and $24MM were cited as the overall value of the deal. Rapoport offers some clarity on that front, tweeting that the $20MM base value increases to $24MM if Johnson records 10 or more sacks during the 2015 season.
  • Rex Ryan has been the “driving force” behind the Bills‘ pursuit of tight end Charles Clay, a source tells Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News. Having become familiar with the Dolphins tight end over the last few years of AFC East divisional games, Ryan badly wants Clay in Buffalo, and the Bills continue to prepare an offer sheet for Miami’s transition player.
  • Safety Dwight Lowery admits that the Falcons haven’t shown much interest in re-signing him, and says he hasn’t spoken to new head coach Dan Quinn, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com writes. Atlanta is still without a starting free safety, so it’s possible the team will circle back to Lowery at some point.
  • Referring to an article in Australia’s Courier-Mail, former Seahawks defensive lineman Jesse Williams suggested in a tweet that he didn’t actually speak to the outlet. The Courier-Mail piece indicated that Williams himself said he expected to re-sign with Seattle, so it’s not clear whether or not a new deal with the club is actually in the works.
  • Earlier today, I listed a few of the top free agents still on the board at each position.

Bengals To Sign Michael Johnson

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).

10:08am: The Bengals and DE Michael Johnson have agreed to terms, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that it is a four-year deal.

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.

NFC Notes: Brown, Mays, Lewis, Satele

With Ron Parker, Kendrick Lewis, Rahim Moore, and Antrel Rolle all signing deals over the past few days, the safety market has evaporated before the Giants’ eyes, writes Jordan Raanan of NJ.com.

Without many options on the roster or left in free agency, Raanan believes the team will have to do their best to re-sign veteran Stevie Brown, who played with the team in 2012 and 2014, missing the season in between. Brown intercepted eight passes in 2012, ties for second in the NFL that season.

Here are some other notes from around the NFC:

  • While discussing some of Washington’s options left in free agency, John Keim of ESPN forgot to mention that the team had interest in safety Taylor Mays (via Twitter). While there was mutual interest, there has been no official visit.
  • Cornerback Keenan Lewis now wants to retire with the Saints despite his previous demand at a guaranteed contract or a release, NOLA.com’s Katherine Terrell reports. New Orleans’ No. 1 corner also denied an NFL.com report that indicated the Saints are re-working his contract. Lewis has three years left on his deal with base salaries totaling $10.8MM.
  • The Vikings hosted former Buccaneer and Bengal Michael Johnson for a visit today, according to the Vikings’ public relations and communication department (via Twitter). The team could place Johnson at defensive end opposite Everson Griffen.
  • The Bears could be in the market for a veteran center, and Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune suggests that Samson Satele is a name to keep an eye on (via Twitter).
  • The Panthers have filled a number of holes this offseason, and with draft picks, injury replacements, and contract extensions still to be accounted for, general manager Dave Gettleman will likely have to wait another year before making a huge extension, writes Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. He does, however, give five names to watch as possible value signings the team could target this offseason, including Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka and Charles Tillman.
  • Holding the No. 1 draft choice isn’t the only perk of finishing with the league’s worst record. The Buccaneers hold the No. 1 waiver priority thanks to their 2-14 record last year, and they intend to capitalize on it, reports the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud. “It’s a huge deal,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht told Stroud. “Bigger than people realize.” The Texans signed three players with their No. 1 position last season.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report.