The Cincinnati Bengals have extended a restricted free agent tender to backup guard/center T.J. Johnson, the team announced Tuesday. They will likely go with the lowest tender, which would cost them about $1.8 million next season, though the club did not announced which tender amount it’s using.
Johnson is classified as a fourth-year NFL player in 2017, and the tender makes him a restricted free agent. He may negotiate with other teams, but the Bengals could retain him by matching any offer signed with another team.
If Johnson does not sign with another team, he can remain with the Bengals by signing the one-year tender, or by negotiating a longer-term contract in Cincinnati. If he leaves for another team, the Bengals will receive a seventh round pick (the round in which he was picked) from the team who signs him.
It’s more likely that he’ll just sign his tender and make $1.8 million in 2017, or work out a long-term deal with the Bengals. This doesn’t ensure he makes the Bengals’ final 53-man roster in 2017, though, he has a fairly good chance.
Johnson originally joined the Bengals in 2013 as a seventh-round draft selection out of South Carolina. He played in every game in 2016, seeing his highest level of snaps with the offense and starting at left guard in the season finale against the Baltimore Ravens. He played in 12 games during the 2015 season, including the Wild Card playoff game.
Johnson will likely make the final roster this year unless the Bengals opt to draft another center in the 2017 NFL Draft, which they probably should. Though, that would be more to replace Russell Bodine as the starter than to replace Johnson as the backup.
It also helps that Johnson plays guard, which is where the Bengals are about to get hit hard with Kevin Zeitler likely leaving in free agency. That only increases the likelihood Johnson remains in Cincinnati for all of 2017. It’s even possible he takes on the starting right guard duties in 2017, or at a minimum, competes for the role.