Mar 132014
 

The Buccaneers had a gaping hole at defensive end and filled it with Michael Johnson. Johnson is an incredibly athletic edge rusher who went in the 3rd round out of Georgia Tech in 2009 because a lot of his tape didn’t match his athleticism. He eventually put everything together in 2012 in the contract year of his rookie deal, as he recorded 13 sacks and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 13th ranked 4-3 defensive end.

The Bengals franchise tagged him instead of giving him a long-term deal because they wanted him to prove it again. At first glance, he doesn’t appear to have proven it, recording just 5 sacks, but he also added 16 quarterback hits and 40 quarterback hurries, to go with 7 batted passes. Add in the fact that he was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked 4-3 defensive end against the run and you have a guy who was much better than his raw sack totals. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked 4-3 defensive end.

Johnson has never had a good year when he wasn’t in a contract year, so there’s some concern he just coasts now that he has a 5-year, 43.5 million dollar deal with 24 million guaranteed. However, when you consider that the Vikings gave a far less proven player in Everson Griffin 42.5 million over 5 years, this deal looks like a steal. The Buccaneers had an equally big need at defensive end, a comparable amount of cap space, and were an equally unpleasing free agent destination, but unlike the Vikings, they were able to fill their need without massively overpaying. Johnson is a much better overall player than Griffen and this is a very solid deal. I was sure Johnson would get 10+ million yearly when I saw Griffen’s deal, but the Buccaneers got him for under 9.

Grade: A-

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