One of the traditions during the NFL Combine is that, because team officials, head coaches and player representatives (representing their newest clients readying for the NFL draft), tend to talk shop well ahead of free agency (we're not naive enough to believe that Indianapolis isn't loaded with tampering violations as you read this).
One marriage generating significant buzz this weekend is defensive end Michael Johnson and the Minnesota Vikings (for obvious reasons).
One free-agent match with buzz here: DE Michael Johnson and the #Vikings, who hired his former DC, Mike Zimmer, as head coach.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 22, 2014
Minnesota's interest in Johnson is a foregone conclusion, to be honest. Jared Allen is entering free agency (name already being attached to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) -- considering that Johnson has potential and age on his side, the Vikings would be willing to replace him with Johnson, who has only known Mike Zimmer as his defensive coordinator during his five seasons with the Bengals.
That being said, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis isn't shutting the door on Johnson just yet.
"Obviously anything is an option. We would hope to get a contract negotiated short of the franchise tag," Lewis said on Friday. The franchise tag, though expensive, is viable but the cost would be north of $13 million.
With recent news that the 2014 salary cap could reach $132 million, allowing the Bengals $29 million or more available under the cap, Johnson's future, while bleak, isn't completely closed in Cincinnati just yet.