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Is it time for Bengals to move on from Michael Johnson?

Johnson continues to look like a shell of himself.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals need to take a hard look at Michael Johnson’s future with this franchise.

Johnson, who is now 30-years-old and entering his ninth NFL season, accounted for just five sacks in 2015 before getting just 3.5 last season. He even ranked 103rd out of 110 eligible edge defenders by Pro Football Focus.

Johnson’s play doesn’t look like that of a starting defensive end making upwards of $5 million annually, but that’s his situation heading into 2017. He signed a four-year, $20 million with the Bengals in 2015, which included a $4.5 million fully guaranteed signing bonus and an annual average salary of $5 million. In 2017, Johnson will have a cap hit of $5,125,000 and a dead cap value of $2,250,000 if he were to be cut. That seemed very unlikely going into training camp, but seeing him continue to look like a shell of himself is very concerning.

The Bengals have been hoping Johnson will rebound this year and get back to the MJ the Bengals knew and adored from 2011-13, when he was among the league’s better edge defenders while racking up 21 sacks.

Since then, Johnson has accounted for just 12.5 sacks in three seasons, one of which was a one-year disaster in Tampa Bay. That led to him being cut after signing a massive free agent deal before re-joining the Bengals.

But Johnson has failed to do much of anything in his reunion tour with Cincinnati. Last year, Johnson finished with 45 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and three pass defenses. During the last five games, Johnson accounted for a mere nine tackles and half of a sack. That’s absurd production for a starter at any position, and after the first preseason game, it doesn’t look like Johnson is getting any better in 2017.

In training camp and the Bengals’ preseason opener, Johnson continued to look like someone who should not only lose his starting spot, but also be on the roster bubble.

Johnson looks like he’s more worthy of a Life Alert ad than a starting spot on an NFL defense. It didn’t help that just about every other pass rusher who played looked better than him, including rookies Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis. Even the enigmatic Will Clarke looked like an upgrade over Johnson, and Clarke is likely on the outside looking in on the final roster. And, Chris Smith, who was acquired by the Bengals this offseason from the Jacksonville Jaguars made a strong roster push with a great game, too. He’ll see more time this week against better competition (second teamers instead of third teamers, mostly).

If Johnson keeps playing like he has this summer, he should be on the roster bubble. And it’s not like his contract makes it impossible for him to cut. If the Bengals were to release Johnson, they would save around $9 million during the next two years while owing him just over $1 million in each of the next two years, according to Over The Cap.

With that said, is it time for Cincinnati to cut one of their veteran leaders?


Is it time for Bengals to cut Michael Johnson?

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  • 84%
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