Prior to the start of free agency, the Bengals extended a tender to backup center T.J. Johnson, who was set to become a restricted free agent. Now, Johnson has been re-signed to a two-year deal.
Because a two-year deal was worked out, the tender that was extended ($1.8 million for one-year) is not valid.
“T.J. has raised his level of play every year he’s been with us,” said offensive line coach Paul Alexander. “He is smart, tough and reliable. It’s great to know he’s back.”
Johnson played 99 offensive snaps and 70 special teams snaps in 2016. He’ll be classified as a fourth-year NFL player in 2017.
Johnson originally joined the Bengals in 2013 as a seventh-round draft pick out of South Carolina. He spent his rookie year on the practice squad before playing in four games in 2014 and 12 games in 2015. He was active for every game in 2016, and started at left guard in the season finale against the Baltimore Ravens.
Johnson has served primarily as a backup center, but also as a backup guard for the Bengals. He saw a few series worth of playing time at center in 2016, once when starter Russell Bodine was briefly benched and then when Bodine also briefly went down with an ankle injury. But, Bodine did not miss a start and Johnson quickly found himself back on the bench once Bodine was healthy enough to play the week following his injury.
Johnson will likely compete for the starting right guard job in 2017, in addition to trying to steal away Bodine’s job at center. Andre Smith, who just re-signed with the Bengals after one year with the Vikings, is said to be the front-runner for the starting right guard role (taking over for the departed Kevin Zeitler) and 2016 draft pick Christian Westerman should also be part of the competition.
With the losses of Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth along the offensive line, it looks like the Bengals are trying to prevent any further departures for the unit. Johnson has never played a large role on the team, but, he will look to change that on his second contract in Cincinnati.