- Ben Goessling, ESPN Staff Writer
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Before the start of free agency, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson seemed like one of the Minnesota Vikings' most likely targets, due to his history with new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and his familiarity with Zimmer's defense. The Vikings made their interest in Johnson somewhat official on Saturday.
According to a league source, they called Johnson's agents to express interest in him, putting themselves in the middle of what is expected to be a heated competition for the 27-year-old. Johnson had received interest from seven teams as of Saturday afternoon, according to a league source, and that list includes several teams who run a 3-4 defense. The Bengals, however, are not expected to be in the running to retain Johnson, according to the source.
The Vikings, though, have the money to pay Johnson and a connection with him through Zimmer, who helped the former third-round pick turn into a fixture at right end for the Bengals. The 6-foot-7 Johnson is a prototypical fit in Zimmer's defense, which asks linemen to engage blockers and respect the run before they shoot upfield to chase the quarterback. Johnson had success as a six-technique end for the Bengals, and would slide into the same role in Minnesota.
As we discussed earlier this week, he'd seem to be more compatible with Zimmer's defense than Jared Allen, who spent most of his career in Minnesota chasing the quarterback from a wide stance, rather than lining up directly over a tackle. Allen is set to hit the open market for the first time in his career, and said in a Sirius XM Radio interview earlier this week he is looking for "a chance to win" and a "fair contract."
If the Vikings can win a heated race for Johnson, they'd plug him into Allen's old position, which would make official the seemingly likely end of Allen's time in Minnesota.