- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Cincinnati Bengals and defensive end Michael Johnson have two weeks to reach a deal or the defensive end will play this season under the $11.175 million franchise tag. The NFL deadline for teams to reach deals this year with their franchise players is July 15.
I don't see the Bengals and Johnson coming to an agreement anytime soon. The Bengals will have to give out some big money contracts over the next two years to keep defensive tackle Geno Atkins (free agent in 2014), wide receiver A.J. Green (2015) and quarterback Andy Dalton (2015). If the Bengals are going to extend a pass-rusher, it would probably be Carlos Dunlap, who is two years younger than Johnson and will sign for significantly less money. They also used a second-round pick this year on defensive end Margus Hunt, which adds more depth to an already deep defensive end group.
Plus, history is against the Bengals signing Johnson to a multi-year deal before the deadline. Running back Rudi Johnson was the last player to receive the tag and reach an agreement before the deadline. That was eight years ago. In fact, three of the last four players tagged by the Bengals (defensive lineman Justin Smith, offensive lineman Stacy Andrews and kicker Shayne Graham) all signed with another team the year after being tagged by Cincinnati. Only kicker Mike Nugent re-signed with the Bengals after receiving the tag.
Teams were able to strike deals with their franchise players last year. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte and Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee all reached agreements within days of the deadline.
Johnson, 26, a third-round pick in 2009, 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.