- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Cincinnati Bengals announced that defensive end Michael Johnson signed his $11.175 million franchise tag tender, which guarantees his salary for 2013 as well as his participation in the team's offseason workouts and training camp.
If Johnson hadn't signed his tender, he could've skipped practices this spring and summer because he wouldn't technically be under contract. But, with defensive ends signing for less than expected in free agency, it was wise for Johnson to sign and make sure he will get his franchise tender, which was the most expensive one in the NFL this year. Johnson is also the highest-paid player on the Bengals.
"We are glad to have this accomplished and to know we’ll have Mike with us for all of our offseason work,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement. “As I’ve said, making Mike our franchise player was part of the process to keep our defense together. It’s been a good defense the last couple years, and with the right work it can be better. Mike has worked hard to improve himself every year during his time as a Bengal, and we have every reason to believe he will continue to grow as a leader and productive player. And we will stay in contact with Mike’s representatives about possibly doing a longer deal.”
The Bengals will look to start a new streak with Johnson. In the past, players who received the franchise tag from Cincinnati rarely stayed with the team. There was a stretch when three straight players who had been tagged by the Bengals -- defensive lineman Justin Smith, offensive lineman Stacy Andrews and kicker Shayne Graham -- left the following season.
That trend stopped when kicker Mike Nugent, last year's franchise player, re-signed with the team this year. The Bengals could make it two in a row if they can come to a deal with Johnson. If the sides can't reach an agreement by July 15, Johnson will play this season under the tag.
A third-round draft pick by the Bengals in 2009, Johnson enjoyed his best season in the NFL last year, finishing second on the Bengals with 11.5 sacks and ninth in the league. He also recorded 34 quarterback hurries and eight quarterback hits.
“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.”