Having cultivated Michael Johnson, the Bengals weren’t about to let him go.
The Bengals are going to hang onto the fifth-year defensive end by use of the franchise tag, guaranteeing him at least a one-year, $11.175 million deal if they don’t reach a long-term contract.
But that’s still the goal, according to Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.
“Obviously we are committed to re-signing Mike,” Lewis said in comments distributed by the team, “and this move is part of the process to keep a young and promising defense together.
“Mike has worked hard to improve himself every year during his time as a Bengal, helping us to the postseason three of four years. We have every reason to believe he will continue to grow as a leader and productive player.”
The former third-round pick blossomed last year, with 11.5 sacks and growing as a run defender.
“This guy has come up in our system, he plays about 85 percent of our snaps, and he’s the kind of guy we love to have around,” defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said. “He’s hard-working and a great team player. He’s an outstanding run defender in addition to his pass rush production. He’s got great length and size, and great speed off the edge.”
And that combination of factors would have made him highly sought after, which led the Bengals to tag him at the risk of losing right tackle Andre Smith.