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Cincinnati Bengals Will Use Franchise Tag On Michael Johnson

According to multiple reports, the Cincinnati Bengals will apply the franchise tag on defensive end Michael Johnson.

Andy Lyons

At least we've applied some certainty in the offseason chaos.

The Cincinnati Bengals officially announced that they're applying the franchise tag on defensive end Michael Johnson. A finalized salary cap for 2013 allowed concrete franchise numbers, costing Cincinnati $11.175 million. Teams had until March 4 to apply the franchise tag this year; a full ten days before the start of free agency.

Obviously we are committed to re-signing Mike,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis in a news release, “and this move is part of the process to keep a young and promising defense together. Mike has worked hard to improve himself every year during his time as a Bengal, helping us to the postseason three of four years. We have every reason to believe he will continue to grow as a leader and productive player.”

Johnson, a former third-round pick during the 2009 NFL draft, finished last year with 11.5 quarterback sacks, which currently ranks No. 5 in franchise history during a single-season.

An earlier report on Friday published that the Bengals were $54 million under the 2013 salary cap. Applying Johnson's franchise tag number, that brings the overall number below $43 million already. See how quickly that goes?

If another team signs Johnson to an offer sheet, the Bengals have a right to match and if they elect not to, then the Bengals receive two first-round picks as compensation. However Cincinnati will keep working to sign Johnson long-term.

“This guy has come up in our system, he plays about 85 percent of our snaps, and he’s the kind of guy we love to have around,” said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer in the release. “He’s hard-working and a great team player. He’s an outstanding run defender in addition to his pass rush production. He’s got great length and size, and great speed off the edge.”

Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith, also heading into the new league year as an unrestricted free agent, was a strong candidate for the tag. But the argument boils down to one simple thing. How much do you value an effective defensive end against an offensive tackle, especially with draft rich with offensive tackle talent.

Cincinnati may allow Smith to enter free agency unsigned, only to learn what his overall market value is.