Buyer BewareMarch 15th, 2014
Up close and in person, Bucs defensive end Michael Johnson is an impressive guy. He’s tall, he’s lanky, he comes across as a sharp businessman. He’s intelligent. Everything outwardly screams “Buccaneer Man.”
Of course, this means nothing until he gets on the field. He’s been drafted as the Bucs’ primary pass rusher and with folks at One Bucs Palace daring to whisper “Simeon Rice” in his presence. To date, the Georgia Tech product, now entering his sixth season in the NFL, has only recorded one double-digit sack season.
Greg Bedard, the X’s and O’s guru of theMMQB.com, has studied Johnson’s film and believes Bucs coach Lovie Smith is taking a big leap of faith that Johnson can drop quarterbacks on a regular basis.
DE Michael Johnson, Buccaneers (5 years, $43.8 million): This is a bit pricey for a player who has yet to show he can be the type of dominating pass rusher that normally commands this salary. Tampa is taking a leap of faith that he’ll be better in its system. Maybe he will, but there’s definite risk here.
Joe doesn’t believe Bedard’s fears are baseless. But ironically, when Bucs general manager Jason Licht appeared yesterday with popular sports radio personality Adam Schein, host of “Schein on Sports” on Mad Dog Radio, part of the family of channels heard exclusively on SiriusXM Radio, the subject of signing Johnson came up. Licht addressed Johnson’s ho-hum sack numbers last year (3.5).
“The first day on the job that Lovie and I got together when the job was given to me, Michael Johnson was the first person we talked about,” Licht said. “Putting pressure on the quarterback, building a team front to back is the theory here. So that’s the No. 1 quality we look for in a player for this system.
“Last year, [Johnson’s] sack numbers were down, but if you watched all the tape, we actually thought the 2013 season was better than the 2012 season (when Johnson had 11.5 sacks). He was playing next to [Geno] Atkins the year before and when [Atkins] went down to an injury, [the Bengals] had to change some of their scheme; they asked him to drop some, move inside some. He played unselfishly in their scheme which Michael didn’t have a problem doing. He was around the football more last year, and the quarterback.”
Yes, of course, time will tell. But Joe trusts Lovie if he believes Johnson can be the first Bucs player to record double-digit sacks in a season since 2005. The last guy? Yeah, Simeon Rice.