Brandon Johnson is one of the Bengals best linebackers in pass coverage. This isn't a general statement of conjecture. It's a matter of fact. Dating back to 2008, Johnson's three interceptions is the most by a Bengals linebacker. Dhani Jones' 14 passes defenses during that time is the most amongst Bengals linebackers; more than Johnson's 11 passes defensed who ranked second. Then you consider that Jones took part in 516 more defensive snaps on passing downs and the percentages arguably favors Johnson again.
Pro Football Focus grades Johnson as the team's best linebacker in pass coverage, scoring a 6.0 which blows away the team's other core linebackers. Since 2008, Rivers (-1), Jones (-3.7) and Maualuga (-4.9) received negative scores in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus' grades.
Johnson, the Bengals special teams captain, finished with 57 tackles in 2010 with nine special teams tackles that ranked fourth on the team. With 3.5 quarterback sacks and three interceptions in three seasons with the Bengals, is currently in Cincinnati with the team even though his free agency status is up in the air.
"It's important to be here to the extent that we're doing football moves," Johnson said. "That's something you can't do with your trainer."
Signing Johnathan Joseph and Cedric Benson are the team's priorities -- and they should be. But Johnson is as close a priority as anyone, especially with Jones possibly leaving. This team needs depth and Johnson not only is a component to make that depth strong, but could start any linebacker position on the field. As for him actually signing, you have to believe he wants to start somewhere. It's possible the team could move him from the weakside to Maualuga's recently departed strong side, but we haven't heard any rumblings on that as Johnson is believed to be at his strongest in coverage.