The deadline to slap players with the franchise tag is Monday, and it looks like the Cincinnati Bengals will be using their franchise tag on defensive end Michael Johnson. NFL Insider Jason La Canfora tweeted that the Bengals “have indicated” that they will give Johnson the franchise tag, and La Canfora notes that no teams have officially used the tag.
Michael Johnson is just 26 years old, and he had an excellent 2012 season. Although he had a hefty 11.5 sacks last season, Johnson’s forte is actually as a run-stopper. He’s one of the best run-stuffing defensive ends in the game today, and he’s a hyper-athletic player at 6’7″ who is also versatile enough to hold his own in coverage.
The Bengals have a ridiculous amount of cap space available at $54 million, and the franchise tag for Johnson is at $11.2 million. They still have to get important, young right tackle Andre Smith re-signed, and some Bengals fans would rather see the team franchise Smith than Johnson. You can’t really go wrong either way, and it sounds like the Bengals feel more confident about their prospects of getting Smith to a long-term pact.
Johnson has expressed his interest in staying in Cincinnati, and the Bengals official site even wrote that the Bengals would likely slap the tag on Johnson. Their goal- and this is a wise one- seems to be to guarantee keeping Johnson with the franchise tag and getting a long-term deal done with Smith. At this point in time, the Bengals are reportedly not gaining much ground in getting a long-term deal done with Johnson, hence the report from La Canfora that Johnson will most likely be tagged.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter for more NFL updates @SorianoJoe.