Bengals Put Franchise Tag on Defensive End Michael Johnson

With the NFL’s 4:00 p.m. Eastern deadline for franchise tagged players to reach new deals with their teams passed, we now know that Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson won’t get a new deal and will play out the 2013/14 season on a one year, $11.75 million deal before restarting the process as an unrestricted free agent next spring.

Albert Breer of the NFL Network reported that the Bengals defensive end  wouldn’t get a new deal prior to the deadline. He had reported earlier in the day that there had been some communication between the two sides, but it was apparently too little, too late and Johnson will surely be one of the more sought out unrestricted free agents next season should he keep producing and the Bengals fail to re-sign him.

Dec 30, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson (93) high fives a fan before taking the field prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals defeated the Ravens 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

It should come as no surprise that the Bengals opted to tag Johnson rather than lock him down to a new deal with guaranteed money given their tight fisted financial history when it comes to free agents. They however run the risk of losing Johnson come free agency next season. Johnson tweeted “It’s a business” last week and could be soured by the fact the Bengals aren’t confident enough in his abilities to give him a long term extension.

All things considered, Johnson probably deserves a long term extension and the Bengals, who are hovering around the fringe of missing the playoffs and losing in the first and second round year after year, should be committing more money to ensure that they can get over the hump, but that is not what is happening here. The Bengals are notoriously tight with their money, but with the Ravens and Steelers aging and the Browns being the Browns, they have a real shot of controlling the AFC North for the next couple of years and their defense is the linchpin of their success, risking losing Johnson makes no sense.

So unless Cincinnati is planning on Johnson’s production dropping back in 2013/14 (something that would be a huge blow to their chances of winning the AFC North) this move does not make much sense if the Bengals plan on eventually signing Johnson next year. It buys them some time now to evaluate him, but in the long run it runs the risk of losing Johnson entirely or having to sign him to even more money before free agency next year, I am not a fan of this move.

Not much news came out of the franchise tag deadline other than Ryan Clady’s extension with the Broncos being reached, but the Bengals failure to reach, or decision to not give, an extension to Michael Johnson will be a storyline we will be seeing come next spring as he will be guaranteed the choice to opt for free agency after receiving the franchise tag this afternoon.

Topics: AFC North, Cincinnati Bengals, Franchise Tag, Free Agency, Michael Johnson, NFL

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