If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers release defensive end Michael Johnson, the Bengals will become front-runners to bring him back to Cincinnati, according to Pro Football Talk. They add:
Per a league source, if the Bucs cut Johnson loose, his former team will make a made play to bring him back.
The Bengals, who employed Johnson for five years through 2013 as a franchise player, are ready to try to lure him back to Cincinnati. And for good reason; the Bengals finished 30th in the NFL with only 23 sacks this season.
The move will give Tampa Bay $2 million of cap savings, but the team will lose the $7 million that's owed Johnson via guaranteed money "without any offset language". In addition to that, Tampa owes Johnson an additional $2 million if he's still on the roster by the third day after the start of the new league year... thus leaves Tampa Bay without any savings anyway.
Johnson spent most of the season dealing with an ankle injury (which forced him to miss two games) that arguably impacted his entire year. As a result, he only generated four quarterback sacks and Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of -12.6 overall (and -10.8 as a pass rusher).
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."