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Bengals DE Michael Johnson is second-best free agent in the NFL

After playing under the franchise tag in 2013, Johnson enters free agency as a young, athletically-freakish, defensive end.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Generally speaking... who are the best free agents in the NFL tends to be a litmus test on whether the original team (in our case the Cincinnati Bengals) has a chance to sign one of their own. The issue isn't so much about desire to re-sign... we know that they want to bring Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson back. It's more about the evolving narrative that dictates a commentary regarding wise investments in the short and long term, wrapped into one beautiful present with a vanilla-plain bow on top.

Cincinnati has to be smart. Capitulating to many demands to spend, spend, SPEND, could lead to undue burdens later, bringing out goofy sources that say goofy things, like releasing Carlos Dunlap to re-sign Michael Johnson. But why, oh why would you do that?! Ask yourself this... was Cincinnati's failure to win a postseason game in 2013 the result of not having top-tier talent? Or three second half turnovers by the coaches-approved quarterback that's entering his fourth season?

The MMQB ranked the top-100 free agents entering free agency this year. After scratching out Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, both of whom were franchised by their respective teams, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson ranks No. 2 (among all free agents).

The franchise kept him off the market last season. Likely won’t happen again. He’s a physical freak at 6-7 and 260 pounds and tough against the run, but could improve as pass-rusher. Best fit: Vikings. New coach Mike Zimmer gives them an edge.

Vincent Rey received some love at No. 50...

The restricted free agent was undrafted and has risen to the point where he had a couple monster games in ’13, including a three-sack effort vs. Ravens. Best fit: Bengals. They should be able to keep him, but if they get cheap there will be a lot of interest.

...and Anthony Collins was listed at No. 60.

Career backup got chance to show his potential at LT when Andrew Whitworth battled injuries; proved he can play both sides well and might be too expensive to keep. Best fit: Cardinals. Desperate for a top-flight LT, and Collins could be good bang for the buck.