The linebackers that started the most games during the successful 2005 campaign, are either rehabbing (in their own way) or cut. Odell Thurman has work before him if he's ever to regain the middle linebacker spot. David Pollack is in a similar situation. Brian Simmons is, well, cut. Ironically, the team is now looking for a strong veteran linebacker (see: Ed Hartwell). As a result, the Bengals are continuously searching for answers at linebacker. They have been for years. You'll notice that with their age.
Long story, short; the Bengals average age at linebacker is 24 years old with 1.75 years of experience notched under their belt.
Exp. means seasons completed.
Compare that with the defensive tackles were Sam Adams is heading into his 14th season, Michael Myers his 10th and John Thornton his 9th. There you can also find where payroll sits disproportionately on the defense.
So if the Bengals failed to sign Landon Johnson (restricted free agent), they would have lost their most important veteran linebacker -- if a 26-year old can be considered a veteran. Landon has played every game since joining the Bengals after the 2004 NFL draft. Johnson led the team with 132 tackles in 2006 and led the team, as a rookie, in 2004 -- as per Bengals.com.
The real risk was losing Johnson this off-season if another team decided to offer the restricted free agent a deal. In the meantime, Johnson's agent played disappointed when there was limited, if any, discussions for a long-term deal.
That didn't prevent Johnson from signing his one-year tender on Friday. Landon is tough as nails, makes plays and acts classy in every interview. Some argue that he makes plays too far downfield and that he's not a difference maker. Whatever you argue, the Bengals defense is better with Landon than without him.