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NFL roster cuts 2018: Bengals release veteran DE Michael Johnson

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In a move that has been debated for a long time, the Bengals have finally decided to part ways with the veteran defensive lineman.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

In a season full of veteran departures for the Cincinnati Bengals, they had one more in their release of Michael Johnson upon announcing their initial 53-man roster.

It’s a move that has been hotly-contested among talking heads and fans, as the prevailing belief was that Johnson simply wasn’t pulling his statistical weight for his salary. Per spotrac, Johnson was set to have a $6.11 million cap hit and will cost the Bengals $1.9 million in dead cap space.

Still, the team should save about $4.2 million in cap space this year. This move essentially points to a couple of things.

First, the team really likes what they see out of their slew of young pass-rushers. Carl Lawson seems poised for a breakout year, while fellow 2017 draftee, Jordan Willis had another outstanding preseason. And, 2018 third round selection, Sam Hubbard, has quickly become a Marvin Lewis favorite up front as well.

Second, the team is probably gathering up additional space for more contract extensions they would like to complete, as they recently announced with Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. Cornerback Darqueze Dennard, tight ends Tyler Kroft and Tyler Eifert, as well as A.J. Green are all players that are probably on their radar in this capacity.

It appears as if Johnson may not be unemployed for long. Rumor has it that Johnson’s services may be called upon by the Raiders, who not only dealt defensive end Khalil Mack to the Bears on Saturday, but also have former Bengals assistant, Paul Guenther, heading up their defense.

There’s also a possibility he returns to the Bengals once they place guys on Injured/Reserve in the next few days. Marvin Lewis did not shut the door on that possibility.

Here are the defensive ends who made the team’s final roster ahead of Johnson:

  • Carlos Dunlap
  • Sam Hubbard
  • Jordan Willis
  • Carl Lawson

Regardless, Johnson had a solid career with the Bengals. Despite leaving for Tampa Bay for a season in free agency back in 2014, Johnson spent nine seasons with Cincinnati from 2009-2013 and 2015-2017. He will not only be known for his part in many high-ranking defenses, but also for his many charitable endeavors.

Johnson ranks sixth all-time in franchise history with 40 sacks (the statistic wasn’t officially counted until 1983), and 25th all-time in Bengals annals with 230 total tackles.