Atlanta Falcons could "lure" Bengals DE Michael Johnson

USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson could be heavily featured in free agency this year.

Why not the Atlanta Falcons?

That's a thought when considering Michael Johnson's options during free agency this year. He played college football at Georgia Tech and, according to the Falcoholic, the Falcons will have approximately $16.5 million available in cap space.

Matt Miller with Bleacher Report writes:

What will the Atlanta Falcons do in free agency? I spoke to one source who believes they'll try to lure Michael Johnson back to Georgia and hope for a hometown discount in the process.

Makes sense.

But let's keep in mind that Michael Johnson's hometown isn't Georgia -- it's Alabama. He was born in Selma, Alabama, which is where he played high school ball (Dallas County High School). So I hope that's not Atlanta's pitch.

The New England Patriots could factor as suitors based on their reported interest last year. The Minnesota Vikings, who recently hired Cincinnati's former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, could jump into the mix.

Johnson, who had posted 17.5 quarterback sacks in 2011 and 2012 combined, generated only 3.5 sacks in 2013. All things being equal, that was really the only knock on his resume last season.

Johnson accounted for 61 pressures this year (according to Pro Football Focus). Easily a career-high. Johnson also generated a career-high in forced fumbles (2), passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage (9) and defensive stops (33) -- plays that constitute as a failure for the offense. Johnson ranked second in the NFL (among all 4-3 defensive ends) with a +21.2 score against the run.

After being tagged with the franchise label, Johnson signed the one-year tender worth $11.175 million. Cincinnati tried negotiating a long-term deal and placed a $40 million contract on the table (believed to be for five seasons). When Johnson declined, Cincinnati gave the contract to Carlos Dunlap (after adding a sixth season).

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