Though Michael Johnson is getting set to visit Minnesota, his heart may still reside in Cincinnati.
While playing for his former defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer, would be very appealing, Johnson may ultimately decide that he's wanted to be with the Bengals all along. That's what Geoff Hobson said of Johnson's potential return to Cincinnati after the Buccaneers cut him Wednesday.
Johnson sees Cincinnati as a special place that he's missed since the day he left for Tampa Bay last offseason.
A year after he left the Bengals for a five-year, $43 million offer in Tampa, the Buccaneers cut Johnson Wednesday and, according to some former Bengals teammates, it came none too soon for him. He has been telling them from nearly the day he left that he wants to come back to Cincinnati and has told them, "You don’t know what you've got there."It’s believed he’s still on the mass text for the Bengals defensive line, Johnson’s unit so central to the two AFC titles they won in Johnson’s five seasons here.
It's safe to assume the Vikings and Bengals are who Johnson is down to as we inch closer to the weekend:
NFL analyst Solomon Wilcots, who lives in Cincy & well plugged in told me he believes it's only Vikings & Bengals in mix for Michael Johnson— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) March 12, 2015
There's also the fact that Minnesota may not really need and/or be able to afford Johnson. The Vikings re-signed their own free agent defensive end Everson Griffen last year and were rewarded with 12 sacks from a player moving into a full-time role for the first time.
Brian Robison should also be back. Both are set to make around $14 million combined in 2015. Johnson can probably get a deal that pays him in the neighborhood of $7 million in the first year of the deal.
Bengals assessing MJ before continuing w/ Fairley
The Cincinnati Bengals played host to defensive tackle Nick Fairley on Wednesday. However, things changed when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced they released former Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson.
However, the Vikings don’t have a clear third man for their rotation and Zimmer would probably like the idea of adding someone who rushed the passer well for him in Cincinnati. With $7 million already in his pocket without any offset, Johnson can probably afford to take a lesser deal, but does he really want to be a situational guy in Minnesota?
Even though he's coming off a woeful 2014 season, the Bengals seem to think he can get right back and play close to the same level, while receiving the same number of snaps he was getting before departing for Tampa.
With Johnson set to visit Minnesota on Friday, we could hear Johnson's decision soon thereafter. At this point, it doesn't look like another team is going to enter this sweepstakes.