The Buccaneers have a $7 million decision to make regarding defensive end Michael Johnson. Soon. And it’s still not clear what they’re going to do.
Per a league source, if the Bucs cut Johnson loose, his former team will make a made play to bring him back.
The Bengals, who employed Johnson for five years through 2013 as a franchise player, are ready to try to lure him back to Cincinnati. And for good reason; the Bengals finished 30th in the NFL with only 23 sacks this season.
Johnson signed a five-year, $43.875 million deal with $23 million guaranteed in 2014. Of that figure, another $7 million will become fully guaranteed as of the third day of the 2015 league year. That’s the deadline for the Bucs.
They already have paid him $9 million in 2014, and they already owe him another $7 million fully guaranteed in 2015 — with no offset.
UPDATE 8:00 p.m. ET: In the interests of clarity, $3 million of Johnson’s $5 million base salary for 2015 was fully guaranteed at signing. Also, a $4 million roster bonus due this year was fully guaranteed at signing in 2015. The final $2 million in 2015 base salary becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2015 league year. Likewise, $5 million in 2016 base salary becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2015 league year. In short, the Bucs already owe Johnson $7 million guaranteed for 2015 and they’ll owe him another $2 million guaranteed in 2015 and $5 million in 2016 if he’s not released or traded by the third day of the new league year, which starts Tuesday.