The Buccaneers signed Michael Johnson to a 5-year, 43.75 million dollar deal last off-season, coming over from Cincinnati. Johnson struggled mightily in his one year in Tampa Bay, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 53rd ranked 4-3 defensive end out of 59 eligible on 648 snaps in 14 games. Still, I was surprised when they gave up on him after one year, as they didn’t get back the 16 million they already paid him for one-year and he could have bounced back in 2015. Much of the reason why he struggled in 2014 was probably the ankle injury that hampered him all season.
Tampa Bay’s loss is Cincinnati’s gain, as they get Johnson back, which fills a huge need they had at defensive end last season in his absence, and they get him far cheaper than he would have been last off-season, as this deal will pay him 24 million over 4 years. Johnson has a good chance to bounce back this year now that he’ll be healthier and now that he’s back in Cincinnati. Ex-defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is gone, but the Bengals promoted internally with Paul Guenther so the system didn’t really change.
Prior to last season’s down year, Johnson was one of the better edge rushers in the NFL, hence why he got the big contract. A highly athletic 2009 3rd round pick who struggled to put it all together in the first 3 years of his career, grading out below average in every season from 2009-2011, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 14th ranked 4-3 defensive end in 2012 and then proved it again on the franchise tag in 2013, grading out 4th at his position. This is a relatively low risk deal that has strong potential to be a steal.