The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are cutting Michael Johnson, according to multiple reports.
After leaving Cincinnati for a more lucrative contract in Tampa Bay, Johnson endured arguably his worst season of his career. In addition to his team only winning four games, Johnson only notched four quarterback sacks sacks and 27 combined tackles. Johnson's overall Pro Football Focus grade of -12.6, which ranked 53rd among 59 qualifiers. He also missed two games with an ankle injury, which arguably impacted his only season in Tampa Bay.
Bengals hoping for reunion with Michael Johnson
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers release defensive end Michael Johnson, the Cincinnati Bengals will look to reunite with their former third-round pick. The question is, will the Buccaneers release Johnson and absorb his guaranteed money.
The move gives Tampa Bay $2 million in caps savings, but the team will lose the $7 million that's owed Johnson via guaranteed money "without any offset language". Tampa would have owed Johnson an additional $2 million if he'd still been on the roster by the third day after the start of the new league year.
Johnson has generated 30.5 sacks in his career, 21 of which came in his final three years with the Bengals. In addition, Johnson recorded 56 quarterback hits and hurries in 2013, both of which ranked inside the top-11 of every NFL pass-rushers. His 61 total pressures were also the 14th most of any-pass-rusher.
The move could open the door for Cincinnati to reclaim their former third-round pick from the 2009 NFL draft.
Former Bengals defensive tackle and current representative John Thornton joined Lance McAlister on 700 WLW earlier this year, saying that he thought that Johnson and the Bengals missed each other.
"I think they both missed each other," said Thornton in January. "That's probably a regret that I have. I was a part of the process, Rick Smith (Priority Sports), who I was partnered with, and Katie (Blackburn) were lead negotiators, and I was working with the coaches and trying to keep everyone going. We probably, both sides, should have worked harder to get that deal done."
In a story with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Johnson's heart remained with his former teammates in Cincinnati:
Johnson left Cincinnati this offseason to sign a five-year, $43.75 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His address lists Tampa, Florida and uniform pewter and red, but in many ways he never left the defensive line room inside Paul Brown Stadium.
He still checks in there regularly through the cell phones of his former teammates.
"I'm still in the group text," Johnson said, slipping into his contagious, relaxed, Southern laugh. "They'll be texting sometimes (asking) what time the meeting is."
According to a report by Pro Football Talk, the Bengals will make a play to bring Johnson back:
Per a league source, if the Bucs cut Johnson loose, his former team will make a made play to bring him back.
Chris Tomasson with the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the Minnesota Vikings could make a strong push for Johnson, with his source saying that "Mike Zimmer’s his guy. He almost went (to Minnesota) last year."
Others are hinting that Cincinnati would be a clear favorite to bring Johnson back.
Can confirm Michael Johnson cut by Tampa Bay and #Bengals will definitely be involved.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) March 11, 2015
Keep an eye on the Bengals & Michael Johnson. Not quite Revis/Jets but a reunion is quite possible.— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) March 11, 2015
With the Bengals needing pass rush and Michael Johnson about to be free, look for them to move quickly to try to bring him back— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 11, 2015