The NFL is a very harsh business sometimes.
General managers and owners often have to make tough decisions all the time. It is that added bit of drama that makes sports so interesting sometimes. One of the most common decision teams struggle with is getting rid of a long-time veteran.
The logical answer here would be former first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi, who has lost his starting role to Cordy Glenn, but the Bengals would save money against the cap by releasing Johnson instead of Ogbuehi. Johnson, the Bengals’ selection for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2017, means a lot to the team; however, his snap counts have been falling with the team using him a lot as a defensive tackle on third down as opposed to on the edge. With the addition of Sam Hubbard, and young players like Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson needing to find playing time, Johnson might not have the role he once had. That could make him expendable.
There is no arguing Johnson’s value to this team goes beyond the field. He does plenty of work in the community, and he is one of the leaders along the Bengals’ defensive line. He was drafted in 2009. He spent the 2014 season in Tampa Bay, but I’m not going to hold that against him because he returned the next season after the Bucs let him go.
Johnson’s experience is an even bigger deal when you look at how young the offensive line has become. They have used three picks over the past two drafts to upgrade the pass rushing position opposite Carlos Dunlap. Lawson blew up during his rookie season, and Willis was the talk of minicamp.
The Bengals tried to give Johnson more snaps by kicking him inside during pass-rushing situations last season, but they also experimented with Willis in that role as well. Not to mention third-round rookie Sam Hubbard should be able to fill that same kind of role.
There is plenty working for Johnson considering they have such a young group, and he is such a great guy for the community. However, it often comes down to money in this league, and Johnson presents a chance for the Bengals to save quite a bit of it. If the Bengals cut Johnson, they will save around $4.9 million in cap space.
Normally, I’d be against the Bengals making such moves in the name of saving space. They often don’t use most of their cap, so the idea they need to create more space is frustrating.
However, the Bengals have some extensions coming up where they may need to start worrying about how much room they have left. The most immediate extensions that need to be done are Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. They are both set to be free agents after the 2018 season.
It would hard to see Johnson go, but that is the unfortunate business side of the game.