Buyer Beware

March 15th, 2014
michael johnson 0315

Risky signing or savvy pick-up?

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, 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.

33 Responses to “Buyer Beware”

  1. Brian Says:

    I believe it was our old “rockstar” general manager who said you have to spend money when you make mistakes in the draft…

    How is signing Johnson any more of a risk than drafting Clowney or Mack? How many double digit sack seasons in the NFL do Clowney or Mack have? How many guys in free agency who weren’t on the wrong side of 32 have multiple double digit sack seasons?


    It isn’t any more risky to make this move than it is to spend a 7th overall pick on a defensive end.

    Guys like Aldon Smith, JJ Watt, Greg Hardy…they don’t just magically become available…teams don’t just let those guys walk away, hence the Panthers franchise tagging Hardy…

    You HAVE TO take a chance like this…but luckily, unlike Dominik, Love and Licht are smart enough to watch the tape and read between the lines to find the right guy. Johnson was absolutely the smartest and best choice with the highest upside.

  2. Jbeachbuc Says:

    Simeon Rice??
    We should be so lucky..

  3. terraj35 Says:

    Joe, I know is Licht is no Rock Star, but have some faith. There could be a lot worse signings than a young, hard working DE. He’s no Eric Wright.

  4. Trox Says:

    Not really surprise that Lovie would want to fill the RDE position right away. In his first year with the Bears, he traded for Adewale Ogunleye. Of course, later the Bears gave a very hefty contract to Julius Peppers.

    The Bears also traded two 1st rounders to solve their QB issues. Hmmm….

    Don’t forget Lovie trading a second-rounder for Gaines Adams. –Joe

  5. joseph mamma Says:

    Yeah if he had double digit sacks every year, then most likely he would have been retained by the Bengals. But hey, we got Simeon here as a free agent because Arizona let him walk so… has happened before. I’m guessing though the Bengals wanted Johnson back, just not near the price we offered.

  6. Mr. Patrick Says:

    Only 1 double digit sack season? That’s 1 more than Michael Bennett who everybody longed for

  7. White Tiger Says:

    Mentioning Simeon Rice in the same breath as Micael Johnson is a stretch – Simeon was lightning off the edge – speed was his main weapon – but not JUST in getting to the QB. He had the ability to utilize that speed to adjust – he rarely over pursued. He also was strong.

    We called him Space Cadet – but he was the original “Freak” a combination of speed, vision, strength, and savvy.

    Michael Johnson will be fine, and with McCoy on the inside, he will help create some mismatches and breakdowns on the.

    …but there will only, ever be, ONE Simeon Rice.

  8. johnnyc Says:

    When he had Geno lined up next to him commanding double teams he was effective so he should be an effective compliment to Mccoy. My problem is with Licht’s negotiating prowess, or lack thereof. Lamarr Houston went to the Bears for over a million less a year, and he is comparable to Johnson. Still an improvement over Dominitwit

  9. Eric Says:

    Other than McCown they went for younger up and comers that, if they work out, have a lot of football ahead of them.

    If you go for a guy that had multiple double digit sacks then you have to break the bank to get them, and they would likely be an older fools gold type.

    Nobody lets young studs with tons of sacks just walk.

    We’ll see, but it sure looks like an impressive group and should lead to vast improvement.

  10. Eric Says:

    Let’s hope Bruce almighty signs Penn, maybe the raiders will be forced to draft a LT and not A QB.

  11. Macabee Says:

    Yeah, Peppers just signed with the Packers for 3yrs/30mil. I wouldn’t have liked that deal for a 34 year old player. I don’t care about double digit sacks. Spread it around. Everybody on the D-line get 9! lol. Forget stats and win games!

  12. Sapp, STFU Says:

    Trust is growing with Lovie and Licht. This does not feel like a Dan Snyder “buy a paper champion” free agency spree. They are thoughtful, pragmatic and methodical. My optimism is growing yet we need to see the results on the field before euphoria steps in.

    Go Bucs!

  13. Mike Says:

    Don’t be fooled….. Raiders are getting a QB

  14. Ed Says:

    Peppers is off the list. Go e to Green Bay. Too much money! 8.45 million in 1st year.

  15. Stokes963 Says:

    Joe, Revis is gone. Get over it already!! Can you at least wait until practice before all of your doom and gloom. This is a great web site. You do a great job, but all this man crush stuff with Revis has got to stop.

  16. Warren Says:

    Read somewhere he also had 9 passes swatted down at the line. That’s not a typical stat we look at, but at 6′ 7″ he’s probably one of the few DE’s who can put up “shot-blocking” numbers like that!

  17. Eric Says:

    The “build throughout the draft” packers?

    Fool’s Gold. 😉 –Joe

  18. Kgh4life Says:

    There are always risks: the NFL draft and of course free agency, so this shouldn’t surprise anybody. If one looks around the league we see teAms taking risks all the time. For instance Everson Griffin resigned with the Vikings for a good amount if money, why? The Vikings are banking on his potential and the same could be said for Lamar Houston signing with the bears.

  19. StPeteBucsFan Says:

    We seem to frequently forget that football is still a team game. I’m not obsessed with Johnson’s individual numbers. If Johnson’s rush helps GMAC get more sacks, and other DL to get more sacks and pressures fine.

    I liked Simeon Rice. I agree with everybody that it’s premature to mention Johnson in the same breath. Let him “earn” that comparison on the field.

    Having said that, according to all reports Johnson can also play against the run. As much as we might have loved him Simeon was a “one trick pony”.

    Johnson has the “potential” to be a better player than Simeon if you value all around play.

  20. BucsQcCity Says:

    So glad Panthers tagged Hardy. Since then there’s no way they improved. Smith gone, munnerlynn gone, starting OT retiring. We improve on OL, DL, QB and coaching.

    Saints and Falcons might have improved but they lost key players on offense: Sproles, Gonzales and Moore!

    Go BUCS!

  21. Warren Says:

    In fact, just looked it up and he was by far the number one DE in that category last year :

  22. Jon Says:

    The guys averages 5 sacks a year Clayborn 7 a year. Heck yeah buyer beware at his price

  23. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Michael Johnson signing was the most risky because they spent so much. I always look for consistency first thing and that is something he lacks. I don’t really care if a scheme was changed or if certain other players were gone.

    You don’t see Peppers numbers suffer with those things. If a player is good, he maintains regardless.

    That said, it is possible that Lovie can bring out the best in Michael Johnson.

    Barring injuries, which should always be a consideration when considering signings for Tampa.

    I will say this though. If the Bucs win the superbowl no one can say Lovie did it with Schiano’s team.

  24. Yusef A Taufiq Says:

    people need to remember this guy will be playing under lovie smith, everyone and I mean everyone will be pretty much bet getting a fresh start. I have confidence Lovie will get the best out of his guys, and think about this, Lovie is gonna be turning these guys loose, this ship isn’t being driven by Schanio anymore, no more stupid stunts and crap, Trust in Lovie! 🙂

  25. BigMacAttack Says:

    I like all the FA moves they have made so far, adds and cuts. I think they will be a much improved team. They attempted to replace all of the wasted picks from before with quality free agents. Winning is what matters, not how you get there. If they can get 3 or 4 good draft picks that will mean they have revamped almost 25% of the roster.

    Go for it. What do you have to lose?

  26. zam Says:

    yeah Profootballfocus graded him as only an average pass rusher. Lovie has to be trusted at this point to spot things that pff nerds nor I can, he’s earned that right based on his past defenses.

  27. Thomas Says:

    He didn’t get the sacks last year because the big guy who was in the middle got hurt. He got 50+ pressures however, meaning he caused alot of havoc in the backfield. You put that in with Gerald, who was brought in because he caused alot of havoc in the backfield, and yo have the makings of something special.

    What they have done with the D-line is transform i t into something that will need to be reckoned with. Give it chance, you gave the previous regimes a chance to do it with nobody special on the line. Now you have a guy whop actually had 10+ sacks in a year and a guy who just won a superbowl and realizes what it takes…

  28. bucrightoff Says:

    When people say Johnson has a 10 sack season and Bennett doesn’t, they do realize Bennett has more 8+ sack seasons (2) than Johnson right? That Bennett has only 3.5 fewer career sacks in 13 fewer games? And that Bennett is getting paid less?

    Johnson might turn into a great player, but at the moment everything suggests Bennett is better. I know we don’t want it to be true because that means we gave away a better player only to sign a more expensive player later on, but it is what it is.

  29. Getaclue Says:

    He didnt get the sacks last year but had 61 qb pressures,61!

  30. feelthepewterpower Says:

    When people say Johnson has a 10 sack season and Bennett doesn’t, they do realize Bennett has more 8+ sack seasons (2) than Johnson right? That Bennett has only 3.5 fewer career sacks in 13 fewer games? And that Bennett is getting paid less?

    Bennett played on a team that was one of the worst pass defense in nfl history, no? New Orleans, Atlanta are primarily throwing teams. So is it possible that Bennett had more passing downs to work with than Johnson?

  31. bucs4lyfe Says:

    vincent jackson was a risky and expensive pickup….the contract he got wont handicap us like mark dominick signings if he isnt worth what were paying then we struck out on yet another but it’s easier to move on from this years contracts….they are all risky signings, risky draft picks EVERYONE gets paid based on performance INCLUDING COACHES we may never know if some of our players will reach their potential thanks to hires like raheem morris and especially greg schiano….theres always a but even though greg schiano didnt look the part or act the part of a real head coach everyone was screaming give him time so give these signings room to breathe im all in on the direction were headed post greg schiano and desperation job saving signing of darelle revis

  32. Alan Bucs Says:

    Michael Johnson has one more 10 plus sack season than any of our Defensive ends on the team before him. This was a brilliant move to find a guy that has done it before and is still young. We have more of a veteran/proven player roster in one week of free agency than we had all of last season.

    GO BUCS!

  33. owlykat Says:

    I believe Johnson will be better than Rice. Rice was not a good run stopper–Johnson is. Yes, Rice was a good speed rusher; I watched every game he played, but he had a huge ego and was not a team player. Johnson will fit well with the team and will knock down more passes and put a lot more pressures on QBs than Rice did and he will create double digit sacks for us too!