The general feeling by many that cover the Cincinnati Bengals (and the NFL in general) is that Michael Johnson will be a casualty by this time next year. An increasing market value set by posting career numbers in 2012, the Bengals aren't convinced that sustainability is very reliable right now; though they believe his potential has yet to be realized.
Additionally they have other worries with Geno Atkins and A.J. Green, both of whom could sign contracts far greater than any Bengals player has signed at their respective position. And possibly of all-time. It's a conundrum that was clearly and quite visibly, approaching over a year ago. So they've had time to plan, examine, and weren't by any means taken by surprise with these approaching contract situations.
Based on the new contracts signed by defensive players this year, Johnson clearly won't receive anything close to an annual $10 million number and no matter which team he signs with in 2014, he'll see a dramatic reduction in annual salary compared to his $11.175 million franchise contract.
There's a hope that Johnson signs an extension soon, but the July 15 deadline for franchise players (to sign long-term deals) is approaching and there's no known progress being made. The latest confirmed report came from Jason La Canfora last month, explaining that "there doesn't seem to be much optimism" on a contract extension, and later says that Johnson is likely "a goner" next year.
And some believe that he doesn't deserve a big-contract until he proves that 2012 wasn't just a fluke.
"When he was playing for a new contract in 2012, the defensive end had a career year with 11.5 sacks," Dan Pompei wrote last month for the National Football Post. "The Bengals have seen growth in Johnson every year, and their coaches believe he can improve more, especially with his down to down and game to game consistency. They aren’t sure what his ceiling is because he is athletic, smart, and a high effort player. But they are confident Johnson can be a better player in 2013."
It's been well documented that the Bengals aren't very good at retaining franchise players. Mike Nugent is the first player to re-sign with the team after being franchised since Rudi Johnson signed an extension in 2005 prior to the franchise deadline. Based on Johnson's perceived market value and the contract status with other players, it's hard to see Johnson playing for the Bengals next year. It helps to explain why the Bengals signed Wallace Gilberry and Robert Geathers to three-year deals respectively while drafting defensive end Margus Hunt in the second-round this year. But if they are able to capture Johnson long-term, their best bet is to sign him to a long-term deal before next Monday's deadline.