The Bengals took a page from their AFC North neighbors the Steelers yesterday, signing defensive end Carlos Dunlap to an extension while leaving Michael Johnson to work this year under the franchise tag.
So with Dunlap playing the role of Steelers wideout Antonio Brown last season by getting an unexpected extension, that leaves Johnson to play out the year before getting a chance to leave in free agency, Mike Wallace-style.
According to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Dunlap deal coupled with other business the Bengals have to take care of makes it likely this is Johnson’s final season with the Bengals.
The Bengals want to try to extend defensive tackle Geno Atkins’ deal (otherwise they’d have to franchise him next year), and they’re a year away from their first chance to extend quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green.
While the jury’s still out on whether Dalton deserves big money, Atkins and Green should get paid at the top of their respective positions, and that might leave Johnson looking elsewhere for his, after he cashes his guaranteed $11.175 million this year.
Using a second-round pick on defensive end Margus Hunt this year also set the stage for his eventual departure, giving them a chance to balance the books with some cheap labor, and keep the position stocked for the future.
Johnson had 11.5 sacks last year, and would hit the market at 27 years old, so he’d have a chance to do better than some of the veteran pass-rushers that found a soft market this offseason.