Report: Bucs Pursuing DE Michael Johnson

March 9th, 2014

Joe’s got an uneasy feeling this morning, and it’s not undigested beer and grouper tacos from last night.

Word from the Chicago Tribune says the Bucs are in hot pursuit of free agent Michael Johnson, the Bengals’ defensive end.

After Johnson’s 3 1/2-sack season last year, and given Johnson’s freakish athletic gifts at 6-7, 260 pounds, Joe gets a queasy feeling that Lovie Smith sees Johnson as a Gaines Adams type of guy. In other words, Johnson might be viewed by Lovie as a guy whose production he can massively increase versus what he delivered in Cincinnati. For the same reason, Lovie and the Bears mysteriously traded a second-round pick to the Bucs for Adams midway through the 2009 season. 

Of course, Johnson is more accomplished than Adams ever was. Johnson, 27, had his breakthrough season in 2012 with 11.5 sacks, and he’s stout against the run.

Johnson would represent a huge upgrade to Adrian Clayborn, and he could be the “value” type free agent with massive upside the Bucs claim to be seeking. But Joe’s leery of a guy coming off what unquestionably was a down year.

Joe wonders whether word of the Johnson pursuit means Jared Allen and/or Michael Bennett are seeking astronomical sums of money.

89 Responses to “Report: Bucs Pursuing DE Michael Johnson”

  1. The_Buc_Realist Says:

    Its never good when you “hear” about the rumor. Usually means the agent thinks there needs to drive up the price for the deal on the table. Also I did not see any Bengals games. was he always doubled teamed???

  2. ryan Says:

    Yes , I want micheal Johnson as our starter. And then use Jared Allen as a situational type guy.

  3. tom in st augustine Says:

    @bucrealist ~ makes sense ……also, very good question

  4. Getaclue Says:

    He was double teamed because geno atkins was hurt ,they cant double both him and mccoy

  5. stvcl Says:

    Bring him.

  6. Solinor Says:

    I don’t understand why he only had 3.5 sacks last year? I would rather have Adrian Clayborne, who had 6 sacks. Bring in Allen or Bennett, please!

  7. Michael Duggan Says:

    I feel comfortable with the move, although I think the Eagles and the Vikings are equally hot after him.

  8. biff barker Says:

    Nobody should be complaining nor surprised.

  9. terraj35 Says:

    Value type free agent? Joe, he’s gonna get PAID. I’m in favor of getting him over Peppers or Allen. We need someone who has something to prove. Not a guy in his twilight years looking for a final paycheck.

  10. Robbie_G Says:

    Joe I agree. After a down season. He played with an all pro DT as well. And you could say a better D line as a whole. If you look at freakish athlete, Take Houston from Oakland. He was the only good player on that D line.

  11. Brandon Says:

    I’ve said it before and I’m saying it now, Michael Johnson was my top choice for free agent DE, even above Greg Hardy.

    Johnson is a Simeon Rice clone…only a little bit bigger and tougher against the run. He would absolutely blow up in Lovie Smith’s system.

    Gaines Adams was terrible for a variety of reasons…one prominent red flag that Gruden chose to ignore was that Adams was over-aged. He didn’t qualify out of high school so he went to a prep school, then he got to Clemson and was redshirted. It wasn’t until his 4th year of of high school that he finally started a game. It wasn’t until his 6th season that he was a dominant player..and why wouldn’t he be? He was a 24 year old MAN playing against 20 year old boys. He also had a very poor work ethic in the gym, even admitting he rarely worked his legs…as if legs weren’t the MOST important body part for a DE.

  12. Kalind Says:

    Getaclue is exactly right. Atkins went down and they double teamed Johnson, and even chipped w a running back often. No DE is beating that consistently. With Gholston and McCoy, I think Johnson becomes an absolute beast that doesn’t need to be upgraded in 2 years.

  13. Kalind Says:

    Also, getting Johnson (as opposed to Joes boy the >10 sacks forever Bennett, (who is maybe going to Chicago) will free up Peppers. Gholston, Johnson and Peppers would be freaky. And affordable, as Peppers just simply can not demand much

  14. BucsQcCity Says:

    He had near 60+ pressure, ranks among best in NFL. He’ll cost us a lot of $$ with Zimmet in Minn trying to get him

  15. Jeagan1999 Says:

    I hope all this points to getting some more offensive weapons ( and O-linemen) in the draft…Sammy Watkins or Eric Ebron?

  16. pablo Says:

    terrible movie get a proven pass rusher instead. I would rather gamble with the seventh overall pick in below six million plus a year on this guy

  17. Brandon Says:

    pablo Says:
    March 8th, 2014 at 4:37 pm
    Cut demps and sign Sproles.
    Cut penn and sign Eugene Monroe for 10 mill a year


    pablo Says:
    March 9th, 2014 at 9:39 am
    terrible movie get a proven pass rusher instead. I would rather gamble with the seventh overall pick in below six million plus a year on this guy


    A GM you are NOT! Your last two suggestions are terrible. You don’t think Michael Johnson is a proven pass rusher? He had 11.5 sacks in 2012..when was the last time the Bucs had ANYBODY with that many? You don’t think 11.5 sacks is proof, then you’re clueless.

    Penn is a bargain. No, he isn’t great, and I don’t dislike Monroe, but what you’re suggesting is we just throw money at some of our slight problems, and then gamble on a rookie for our major problems-pass rush. FYI, rookie DEs struggle to make an impact and have a higher bust factor than just about any other position. You can’t bank on a rookie being anything other than talented. Johnson is supremely talented and productive, against the run AND the pass.

  18. Architek Says:

    I like the move but now that it’s public, the bidding war will escalate. I don’t want to overpay for a one year producer.

    I’d rather seek out Bennett.

  19. zam Says:

    could be smokescreens… we’ll have to wait and see

  20. jvato24 Says:

    Joe, maybe you have forgotten, but Gaines Adams rip had 13.5 sacks over his first 24 starts, or 12.5 sacks in his first total 2 years, this was with barely any push from DT at the time, Averaging 6 sacks in your first 2 years is far from a bust.

  21. Couch Fan Says:


    He’s been in the league for 5 years and only has 1 season of double digit sacks. Let’s not act like this guy is Jared Allen. Proven he is not. None of the other 4 years he was even close. 3, 2.5, 6, 3.5 sacks in each. You really need to quit acting like your opinion is fact.

  22. biff barker Says:

    Pablo, this team’s singular biggest need is a pass rush. Period.

    We’re giving $24M to Revis and Goldson and you want to spend only a late round pick or a FA in decline over this guy? We’ve got both Gholston and Steven Means already.

  23. BigMacAttack Says:

    I don’t care about who they get or how, just make it happen and win right now!
    I’m along for the ride and hopeful this time that it doesn’t end in a heaping pile of steaming horse Schiano.

  24. jvato24 Says:

    Fwiw thats some of the better production this team has seen since Simeon at DE, I wouldnt be surprised if Gaines averaged about 7 – 9 sacks per year under Lovie ajd Marinelli, and I believe Marinelli had alot to do with it

  25. jvato24 Says:

    For all apposed to Mike Johnson, what mystery DE should the Bucs go get?? Jared Allen wants to go to a contender aka not Tampa Bay, This also is an inflated cap year so expect overpays, Draft has no guarantee of a rusher at 7, what then, roll with the same DL and a 2nd or 3rd rd pick helping??

  26. Couch Fan Says:

    I’m not opposed to the move. I realize we need a pass rusher. But just think about this for a moment.

    You are offering big money to a guy who played every game in his 5 year career but 1. He played next to a dominate DT on a pretty good defense. He’s had one good season which has been mentioned plenty of times now. His other 4 seasons? 3, 2.5, 6, 3.5.

    Thats not impressive. Doesn’t sound like a guy who is a pass rusher. Sounds more like he got lucky once. If he played in Tampa with those numbers next to McCoy. There is no doubt these fans would call him a bust.

  27. Max Says:

    This guy is a dud! He only had success because of Cincinnati’s great defense, specifically Geno Atkins.

  28. pablo Says:

    This move is similar to Eric Wright. This guy hasn’t produced to warrant a big contract.

  29. The_Buc_Realist Says:

    if playing with a great DT and getting 11.5 sacks is a dud. Then what does that make the DE that the Bucs Currently have???

  30. Name Required Says:

    I’m looking for anyone that can get a sack. This was the obvious focus once Lovie came to town, and much needed.

    Now get someone on the other side of the D-line and we’re wide open for offense on draft day. Watkins? Matthews? Manziel? Bridgewater?

  31. gt40bear Says:

    Not opposed at the right price, but consider he had his big year in a contract year then got big one year deal and slipped back to his average production. Fluke, too many double teams because No DT help…or does he only produce when looking for big paycheck? I liked him coming out of college and would like the signing if it happens (again at the right price) but don’t be surprised if he does not turn into Simeon.

  32. pablo Says:


    What I think Max was trying to say was Micheal Johnson played besides Geno Atkins (arguably the best 3Tech pass-rushing defensive tackle taken in that 2010 draft) and only managed to have one double digit sack season. One couldn’t get more than 6 sacks the other 3 years.

    So I’m just curious to see how everyone else thinks those numbers are gonna increase all of a sudden playing next to McCoy?
    Atkins > McCoy from a pure pass rushing standpoint.

    Micheal Bennet had a better season last year not playing next to McCoy

  33. Name Required Says:

    Why do you guys care about cost at all? They’re trimming the fat (pardon the expression) on the O-line, and Lovie has said they should be spending near the cap every year.

    It’s not our money, anyway. Rejoice!

  34. Amar Says:

    Tremendous upside, ABSOLUTELY!


    I am pretty sure that the main reason he had a down year was due to the absence of Bengals STUD Defensive Tackle……

    Geno Atkins!!

    This would be a brilliant acquirement and if GM Licht pulls it off, he definitely would establish some ground with me!! Go get’em Licht! PAY THE MAN !!

    (Get’em TiGGER)

  35. BucfaninMO Says:

    According from a tweet from Darren Connolly IV, the Vikings will announce the signing of Michael Johnson on Tuesday.
    Joe do you follow this guy? If you do is he creditable?

  36. Couch Fan Says:

    Because its stupid to sign a sub par player to a big contract that could cripple the team for years?

    It’s not just about money. This guy doesn’t sound like that much of an upgrade over Clayborn. If at all. I would pity the man if he came here and put up 3 sacks. Lol. Can you imagine the comments here on JBF?

  37. SAMCRO Says:


    Penn is a bargain. No, he isn’t great,


    I’m not ripping on you Brandon but this is the one thing that irks me. Everybody keeps saying that Penn is fine at LT because he is paid at a bargain price compared to todays top LT’s. The LT is the most important lineman on the o-line. He protects the blindside of a right handed QB. So that being the case, shouldn’t it be imperative and a prerequisite to have the best LT you can employ rather than being a bargain shopper, and putting your QB at unnecessary risk?

    Penn played horrible last year. Everybody keeps saying he played badly because of the rest of the line, but if you go back and watch the games Penn was getting beat by one on ones. He was blowing his own assignments. He’s getting long in the tooth and can’t bend his knees anymore. He uses his hands well but he lacks the mobility against the younger and faster DE.

    Everybody keeps saying it was an anomaly, he should get one more year to prove himself. I ask, can we afford to take the risk when all the evidence was right there for us to see. The problem is some fans refuse to take the blinders off. Hopefully, Lovie also sees Penn’s regression and moves Penn to either RT or G, before he gets our QB slaughtered.

  38. James Mainor Says:

    Need a pass rusher but also need help on the inside like jason hatcher from Dallas. If they could pull off both moves and pick up mack at 7th overall in the draft our defense will be top 5. Also we need to go ahead and take donations to help pay goldson’s fines next year for the times he lays the wood on another them sissy receivers.

  39. Hawk Says:

    The “word” that the Chicago Tribune got was likely from Johnson’s agent, trying to raise the value/interest of his client.
    That being said, he is more of the “value” type player that Smith/Licht have talked about.

  40. Uncle Deadly Says:

    Funny how guys we lose go elsewhere and have monster seasons, but we never think we can bring a guy here and make him better. Have faith.

  41. NJBucsFan Says:

    If the price is right, it’s a good move. He’s younger and had more upside than many of the DE free agents out there. Plus it takes time to develop a team. You can’t just plug FA’s in and expect it to gel. Look at the Eagle’s Dream Team. Speaking of the eagles, I really doubt they make a move for him. They are running a 3-4 now and Johnson has never played in that system.

  42. Name Required Says:

    So what are your options? What builds a pass rush? Same guys that didn’t do dick for 3 years?

  43. Barry Says:

    Lots of fans and all media ran GS and MD out of town and hyperventilated with excitement when LS and JL were hired. So let them do what you hired them to do. I mean they are the professional evaluators, aren’t they? Just like every team, they gonna hit and the y gonna to miss.

  44. Tiny Tim Says:

    @ Couch,

    I totally agree. When I heard this news last night, I was like why? You beat me here to set the record straight. I can’t believe how everyone is reacting to this potential signing. If he is a bargain signing along the lines of 3 mil a year, then I sign him. If he wants more than that, I will walk away.

    I surely hope the bucs can find a true pass rusher fast. The lack of having one over the past few years has many on here delusional of what a pass rusher truly looks like. One poster named brandon actually compared this guy to Simeon Rice. He exact words were “He is a simeon rice clone.” Before rice came to Tampa, he already had 3 double digit sack seasons with pro bowls under his belt. BTW…he had no stud DL anywhere with him in Arizona. THe only ways they are similar is they are both tall and black. Period.

  45. Theodore Says:

    PFT says he is being pursued by a quarter of the teams. So he may not be as cheap as we may think.

  46. Couch Fan Says:

    There are plenty of options out there, pick whatever you like. I’m not disputing signing this guy. Just saying dont spend to much money to do it. 1 barely good season doesn’t make a guy proven.

  47. Booth Says:

    Doesn’t matter if he get him. We still have no QB – so were gonna suck

  48. Grudenite Says:

    I would like to see them add jason hatcher from Dallas. Could you imagine him and Mccoy lined up beside each other. If Bowers and or Claiborne cannot succeed with those two beast blowing up the middle then the problem is Bowers and Claiborne. Not coaching. There is four hot picks at DE right now. Peppers, Allen, Bennet and Johnson. Any of the four would be serviceable if you had Hatcher and Mccoy blowing up the middle of that line.

  49. Couch Fan Says:

    @Tiny Tim

    You got to learn to just laugh at the sillyness. That is the same guy that just on the previous articule was ridiculing Joseph for “not living up to his hype”. Then turns around and tries to make this guy out as the next Rice? Just makes me shake my head.

  50. Mr. Patrick Says:

    Late in the season I watched 2 Bengal’s games and Johnson was doubled, tripled and chipped on every play because Bengals had no other pass rushers after Atkins went down. Still he applied constant pressures. People shouldn’t comment on him until they have actually watched him play

  51. BucfaninMO Says:

    Sacks are not the only stat you need to look at.. Johnson had 61 pressures, 9 passes defended and was excellent against the run. If sacks are the all people are worried about then Allen is the player you want to sign.
    As for the others that want him on the cheap, guess again. Johnson is gonna get paid!! It’s probably gonna take $11-13m per for him to sign a contract and there are other teams in the NFL that need a solid pash rush and have bigger check books than the Bucs..

  52. Grudenite Says:

    people are beating up Johnson for his 3.5 sacks last year. Jason Hatcher had 11 sacks last year.


    Team him with Mccoy and watch the opposing team QB tremble before each play.

  53. Couch Fan Says:

    Late in the season I watched 2 Bengal’s games and Johnson was doubled, tripled and chipped on every play because Bengals had no other pass rushers after Atkins went down. Still he applied constant pressures. People shouldn’t comment on him until they have actually watched him play


    So Carlos Dunlap who played opposite of Johnson for 4 years and also has MORE sacks than Johnson… doesnt count?

  54. Tiny Tim Says:

    As for the others that want him on the cheap, guess again. Johnson is gonna get paid!! It’s probably gonna take $11-13m per for him to sign a contract and there are other teams in the NFL that need a solid pash rush and have bigger check books than the Bucs..


    Any GM that signs this guy for 13 mil per should have to sign up for the league drug program. Are you kidding me? You have to be kidding me with 13 mil per.

  55. BucfaninMO Says:

    @Couch Fan
    Well played sir, well played

  56. Tiny Tim Says:

    Late in the season I watched 2 Bengal’s games and Johnson was doubled, tripled and chipped on every play because Bengals had no other pass rushers after Atkins went down. Still he applied constant pressures. People shouldn’t comment on him until they have actually watched him play


    So Carlos Dunlap who played opposite of Johnson for 4 years and also has MORE sacks than Johnson… doesnt count?


    Don’t forget that Wallace Gilberry (who the bucs cut) had 8 sacks last year without Atkins. Please do not make excuses for a rotational past rusher. 13 mil a year still has me laughing.

  57. Couch Fan Says:

    I actually think a team will way overpay for him. I just hope it’s not us. I liked this guy coming out of college to. I seen him play a lot in college.

  58. teacherman Says:

    The Bengals rotate DE’s more than most teams.

    If his production dropped, its because he KNEW Cincy wasnt trying to resign. The owner, Mr. Brown is a cheapskate.

    Johnson would be a bigtime upgrade for us.

  59. Mr. Patrick Says:

    @ Couch Fan
    Johnson only became a full time starter in 2012

  60. pablo Says:

    Lol @ the guy who said 13 mill a year .
    He will sign for no more than 8.5 mill a season

  61. Mr. Patrick Says:


  62. gotbbucs Says:

    This just tells me his agent is doing a great job.

  63. Couch Fan Says:

    Wouldn’t that make this signing even worse if he couldn’t even start til this past year and 2 out of the 4 DE’s on his team got more sacks than he did, 1 of them being a FA that we cut?

    If we sign him, I hope he plays great and im wrong. But on paper it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. We’ll see, this is all probably a smokescreen anyways.

  64. BucfaninMO Says:

    @Tiny Tim
    Those numbers are ones I’ve seen on other sites. Remember with the new CBA deal, the salery cap rising every year and the 89% rule in effect teams are going to way overspend for FA.
    I believe Byrd turned down a huge contract to return to the Bills to test the waters and the Raiders are offering their LT a 6yr/$55m offer. Which he told them he wanted to think about over the weekend..

  65. Tiny Tim Says:

    @ couch

    Overpaying is one thing, being a total dumb @$$ is another. Paying this guy 13 mil a year is like saying he is an elite defender ie Revis, Watt, Matthews. THis guy is nowhere near that. IMO anything over 6 mil, should be cause for you to lose your job. From a bucs perspective, I wouldn’t pay more than 3 mil, 4 mil max.

    Another caveat, is the year he racked up 11 sacks just so happened to be his contract year which lead to the team franchising him last year. Players always have a good year on a contract year surrounded by many underwhelming seasons. Be careful of the fools gold.

  66. BucfaninMO Says:

    pablo Says:
    March 8th, 2014 at 4:37 pm
    Cut demps and sign Sproles.
    Cut penn and sign Eugene Monroe for 10 mill a year
    And you’re laughing at me?

  67. Tiny Tim Says:

    @ BucfaninMO

    Byrd is an excellent talent. He has had many great years including 3 pro bowls and three all pro selections. He is worth 10-12 mil a year. Byrd is elite, Johnson is not.

  68. Mr. Patrick Says:

    There are so many smokescreens being put out right now that Smokey The Bear went into hiding. No deal is done until it is signed

  69. Cbell96825 Says:

    I mean why are so many people concerned with us overpaying for a pass rusher are any of you picking up the tab.
    no.who ever we get is going to get more then they probably should. So just sit back and enjoy the ride

  70. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    jvato24 Says
    “Joe, maybe you have forgotten, but Gaines Adams rip had 13.5 sacks over his first 24 starts, or 12.5 sacks in his first total 2 years, this was with barely any push from DT at the time, Averaging 6 sacks in your first 2 years is far from a bust.”

    Adams was a COMPLETE bust. You talk about his 12.5 sacks in his first two years. How about his 1 sack in the two years following?

  71. BucfaninMO Says:

    @Tiny Tim
    Totally agree with you there. Point I have is teams will overspend come Tuesday.

  72. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Johnson would be good to compete with Clayborn for the starting role. I don’t personally think he.s better than Clayborn will be down the road, but his stats certainly give that appearance.

    Either way, whichever gets the start we’ll have good depth at the position.

    If you think about it, Adrian Clayborn only has 3 years of stats.

    During those (his 3 years in the league) he had 13 sacks.

    Michael Johnson, over his first 3 years only had 11.5 sacks.

    So this may be another case of the fans giving up on a player too soon. As usual for Tampa fans.

  73. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    And keep in mind Adrian Clayborn only played 3 games his second year. Had he played the entire season his stats would blow away Johnson.

  74. Supercereal Says:

    I think Lovie sees Simeon Rice, not Gaines Adams. Same build and body type. But I’ll be honest I have never seen him play so I can’t speak to his ability.

  75. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Supercereal, Adams had the same body type as well. In fact, he also had the same strange crouch at the line.

    He just wasn’t very good at the execution part.

  76. bigpoppabuc Says:

    Not a Michael Johnson fan. He’s a lazy pass rusher. Has all the physical tools, but lacks strength and his pass rush moves are lazy. He will nit be worth the money he’s asking for.

  77. Maze Says:

    Johnson would be a fantastic upgrade to this terrible Buccaneers defensive line. He easily has as much talent and upside as any of the available D ends this offseason. Like Mr. Patrick just mentioned, he has only begun to scratch the surface because of increased playing time the last couple years. Losing Atkins was a devastating blow to his game, causing way to much attention to him. Paying him 8-10 million a season is probably what its going to take to land him and I hope the Bucs are the team he chooses from whats going to be a very competitive signing period.

  78. PRBucFan Says:

    Johnson was on par with Quinn in terms of QB pressures last season, and he is tops against the run as well.

    Would be exciting to have.

  79. Maze Says:

    Sadly I believe Clayborn may be best suited as a situational pass rusher. Goldston is a freak with a massive ceiling. Sky is the limit with that guy. Bowers, well that’s turning into another swing and a miss by the great Dom. PLEASE give McCoy some help Lovie before the draft.

  80. Arealbucsfan Says:

    He better come with a good price. He only had one good year

  81. tha truth is... Says:

    NOOOO! NOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOO! This signing would be flat out stupid

  82. FLBoyInDallas Says:

    It’s a red flag when a guy coming off an 11.5 sack season, and being tagged with a salary of over $11 million, produces only 3.5 sacks. It was a contract year for him and he was being paid a huge sum and his sack production declined by 70%. I’m sure the Bucs dug deep in finding out the cause of that, because on the surface it’s troubling to say the least.

  83. PRBucFan Says:

    “he had his best season as a run defender according to Pro Football Focus (graded at 20.5 in ’13, highest in his career).”

    “Despite only generating 3.5 sacks, he still set a career-high in quarterback hits (17), hurries (41) and batted passes at the line of scrimmage (7).”

  84. HolyBuc Says:

    Everson Griffin just got $8.5M per season. Salary cap is going way up and so are salaries. MJ is getting close to $10M.

  85. Trubucfan22 Says:

    3 sacks? Reminds me of a certain pass rusher in the draft that the entire league is drooling over.

  86. Trubucfan22 Says:

    Clayborn, a situational pass rusher? That’s his least effective talent. Clayborn is a run stopper, not a pass rush specialist. I swear, these fans don’t watch football.

  87. Maze Says:

    Exactly. The former 1st round draft pick is looking like at best, will have to be used as a part time player. Clearly playing on every down has affected his pass rush.

  88. Schmuckaneer Says:

    Anyone who think Johnson is hands down better than Clayborn is a bafoon! Johnson’s 3.5 last year wasn’t a fluke; his 11.5 in ’12 is the fluke. All of his other seasons suggest 3.5 is the norm for him.

  89. IMiss#40 Says:

    Did the Geno Atkins injury hurt his numbers last year?

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