Keeping Michael Johnson

January 19th, 2015
An argument can be made for keeping DE Michael Johnson.

An argument can be made for keeping DE Michael Johnson.

The 2014 season Bucs fans endured was one giant nutkick. Where does one begin in pointing out all the errors made? To date, the only real consistent production the Bucs got out of the draft was a moonshot homer in picking Godzilla wide receiver Mike Evans.

The rest of the draft picks? Scant production at best.

Then there were the free agents. Oh, sure, Alterraun Verner proved to be OK. Clinton McDonald wasn’t bad, either. The rest? Ha!

Some will point to Josh McCown as a massive swing and a miss, but if the Bucs rightly choose Jameis Winston, that signing will have, in effect, been a blessing. Think the Bucs would draft a quarterback if they got even average play out of the position?

Others would point to left tackle Anthony Collins. who was shelved the last few weeks of the season. It was the ultimate white flag: a healthy scratch. The Bucs didn’t even want the guy suited up for gamedays.

For many, the posterchild for the awful free agent signings was none other than ghostly Michael Johnson. Pat Yasinskas is unmoved by his invisible season. In fact, the ESPN scribe makes a case for the Bucs retaining the apparition of a defensive end.

In fact, they should keep him. Those four sacks don’t come close to telling the story of Johnson’s 2014 season. What a lot of critics are overlooking is that Johnson played almost the entire season with some significant injuries.

He suffered a high-ankle sprain in the season opener and kept on playing. He also suffered a broken hand later in the season and kept on playing. That says a lot about Johnson’s toughness and attitude. He’s the kind of guy you want on your team.

If healthy, Johnson’s production almost certainly will go up. That’s why the Bucs can’t afford to send him packing. They likely are going to let Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers walk as free agents. That leaves Jacquies Smith, who had 6.5 sacks, as the only serious pass-rusher.

Well, Joe admires Johnson for playing through pain and Joe can tell you without a doubt Johnson played hurt at times. It was impressive how Johnson played through pain. However, that brings up two points.

One, the NFL is a results oriented business. This isn’t high school or even college where coaches reward heart. It’s about getting results and there is no question Johnson didn’t get results.

Two, Joe repeats his rhetorical question: If Johnson was so hurt that he was dragging down his teammates, then what the hell was he doing on the field? Look, it is laudable how a guy wants to play through pain. That’s a warrior’s mentality. But at some point, if a player is so hurt, it’s as if the team has 10 players on the field. Johnson’s coaches had no business putting him on the field. Joe lays that on the coaching staff.

The 2014 season marked two consecutive years in which Johnson had subpar numbers, healthy or injured. As much as Bucs fans developed indigestion over Johnson’s ghostly numbers, he had more sacks this past season (four) than he did for the Bengals in 2013, when he had 3.5 sacks.

When Johnson was signed, Joe asked him why he had such a drop in sacks (below Adrian Clayborn’s numbers) in 2013. Johnson said he was asked to do different things when Geno Atkins went down with an injury. Fair enough.

This past season, it was injuries. If Johnson stays with the Bucs and his sacks stay in the low single-digits in 2015, then what will Johnson’s rationale be then? Covering Darren Sproles in pass coverage, perhaps?

If the Bucs use the No. 1 pick on a pass rusher (dear God, no!) or sign a high-priced defensive end (again), it will tell you all you need to know about how confident they are in Johnson returning to his lone double-digit sack season in 2012.

39 Responses to “Keeping Michael Johnson”

  1. bucrightoff Says:

    His dead cap space ensures he’s here next year no matter what. But next year he can let GMC and Leonard Williams do all the work and he can take the credit with mop up sacks.

  2. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    There is no way we cut Johnson…..he has a $9m salary…..with $7m dead money and only $2m cap savings if we cut him….
    Now trading him…..who would want him……I think we are stuck….hoping he is healthy & produces…

  3. Hawk Says:

    Joe said:
    ” If Johnson was so hurt that he was dragging down his teammates, then what the hell was he doing on the field? ”

    Is it possible that the guys behind him were even worse? I’ll take GMC, at half speed, over Bowers fresh out of the hot tub.

  4. BirdDoggers Says:

    Licht has said that one thing he learned while moving up the ranks is to admit when you make a mistake on a player and move on. Will he stay true to his philosophy? Maybe. Maybe not. There were too many big swing and misses that they may be forced to live with some of their mistakes for at least another season. Collins would more than likely be the one on the way out. If Johnson really was hurt to the point that he couldn’t produce, they may give him another look next season and hope he pans out.

  5. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    For only a difference of $2million & a roster spot…Johnson is at the very least good depth…..he stays….

    When Licht said to admit a mistake and move on…..I think he probably meant to add….”if the money is right”……I like the other saying better…” I will tolerate you until I can replace you”….

  6. Bobby M. Says:

    You’re under the delusion they were trying to win….

  7. Cascade Says:

    There are 2 things to consider when talking about dumping Johnson.

    1) Will a fully healthy Michael Johnson be worth the financial difference between keeping him and cutting him, which I recently heard would be about 4 million? If he can get 8-10 sacks and play the run well when healthy, then I say yes, he’s worth it. We don’t know if he can do it – we have to rely on L&L to make that determination.

    2) Is he better than whatever else we have? I don’t expect them to count on Johnson. I expect them to draft pass rush, but I think they’re going to give him a chance to see what he can do when healthier.

    If you’re eating up cap space either way, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to just outright cut a guy, especially if he has the right work ethic and attitude. This is the difference between Johnson and Collins. Apparently, Collins just didn’t show the commitment and attitude, and that’s gonna cost him his job.

  8. DallasBuc Says:

    Re-sign Clayborn and Bowers. Either one of these guys is clearly better than that horrible Johnson. He represents everything that is wrong with these clueless dopes running this team.

  9. monk Says:

    Considering the “dead money”, I say keep him as a backup for depth and draft a pass rusher in the mid rounds.

  10. Cascade Says:

    I agree on re-signing Clayborn, but Bowers needs to go.

  11. R.O. Says:

    Every team changes it and runs a zone blitz. Just because the opposing offense whether recognizes and exploits it is the chess match that is defensive football. Just as all teams runs stunts and twists. Please stop with the references to these. Whether it was Schiano or Lovie. If we didn’t then people would complain about a vanilla defense and we aren’t drawing up creative blitzes or trying to manufacture pressure… Please get passed a play when it doesn’t work.

  12. biff barker Says:

    OK, economics dictate we give Johnson a flyer. Cullen, Frasier and Lovie? F- if they let him struggle before healing up.

  13. bucs4lyfe Says:

    that’s tampa news nowadays…..complain about a player since the day he signs his contract and all season long every game then after the season talk about making a case for keeping him on staff hmmmm overreact much? he sucked but lovie was never gonna get rid of this guy after one season anymore than fans that thought lovie would be fired

  14. StPeteBucsFan Says:

    Of course we give Johnson a chance for the small price involved. If his injuries were real then we might get some decent play and at minimum depth.

    Nobody is whining about GMC missing 20% of the games over the past five years. He’s only stayed healthy two out of five years. Based on that what makes anybody think we’ll get a full year from him next year? Nobody talks about cutting him and in fact we backed up the truck and unloaded a gazillion dollars on him. This is not to denigrate GMC but rather to bring some perspective to the rest of the players we’re discussing.

    Since Bowers was moved inside he has flashed some potential. We keep him on a totally incentive laden contract. Same thing for Clayborn. Give them incentive laden contracts and see how they next year in camp.

  15. Buccfan37 Says:

    Off topic but I just read About Joe up top. Congrats on building a winner here for Bucs fans.

  16. Dan Says:

    Sign Jason Pierre Paul. Let Smith back up the both of them. I like Smith, but not as a starter. He’s good depth. Johnson and JPP cant play every down.

  17. tmaxcon Says:

    I’d like to see Clayborn get a full year with Cullen healthy but I just probably gave Realist a heart attack with that statement.

  18. Barry Says:

    Absolutely keep Johnson

  19. The Buc Realist Says:

    I don’t know why some of you want to see the same thing from guys who have done nothing for 4 years! We would just be wasting snaps for backups if we they brought back clayborn. I would rather bring in 3 or 4 guys off the street and maybe one of them can be another Jacquies Smith (who in seven games and limited time matched clayborn’s best year!)

    how many prove it years have we watched!

    I know that there are some that call me and some other fine posters on this site ” haters “. But believe me, we have been nice. If L&L bring in Clayborn and McCown to start next year, you will see the real Haters, I promise you that!

  20. Cascade Says:

    Nobody said anything about bringing Clayborn in as a starter. Pay him a backup-level salary and let him compete. He’s a good team guy, a good player against the run, and occasionally productive as a pass rusher. If they find a guy off the street that’s better than him, then so be it… but it can’t hurt to let the guy compete. I don’t see what the big problem is.

    Bowers is another story. The guy, after 4 years in the league, still hasn’t realized he’s got to work on conditioning. Let him hit the streets.

  21. pick6 Says:

    as frustrated as i am with him as a player, i’m confident he just had what will be the worst season of his prime years. i’m not saying he will be in the all-pro conversation, but almost certainly a better year than 2014. when you consider the cap hit for releasing him this offseason vs next, and the fact that releasing him gives you even more production to replace, he ought to stick around and try to prove his worth for a year

  22. Cascade Says:

    ^exactly… but that doesn’t satisfy the knee-jerk reaction crowd.

  23. The Buc Realist Says:

    Cascade Says:
    January 19th, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    a good team guy, a good player against the run, and occasionally productive as a pass rusher.

    You just described a player that Lovie can find with a 5th or 6th round pick, and can stay healthy as well.

  24. gatrbuc17 Says:

    We wouldnt use the No. 1 on a Pass Rusher Joe.
    We would trade down twice and still get him at 3 or 4

  25. BK Says:

    Mike Johnson is our Jay Cutler. He is skmply too expensive to cut. If the results dont come in 2015 then the expense will be easier to consume and he will be gone.

  26. Jon Says:

    Why didn’t they sign the other Michael. Wierd. New staff. Fits the system. What’s the common denominator??

  27. ddneast Says:

    I’d like to see them keep Clayborn and het him compete at his natural right DE position. Hell, is the price is right sign Bowers, too. As long as the money is right they could resign Mike Jenkins for all I care.

  28. BuccaneerBonzai Says:

    This is exactly what I’ve said all along, but hey…you just can’t convince a Tampa fan of the error of his beliefs.

  29. PFish91 Says:

    Leonard Williams will look very nice next to Gerald McCoy!!!!

  30. Cascade Says:

    The Buc Realist Says:
    January 19th, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    You just described a player that Lovie can find with a 5th or 6th round pick, and can stay healthy as well.

    Maybe so, but signing him means you don’t have to spend that 5th rounder to get another body. As long as you don’t overpay, I don’t see what the problem is with signing a guy like Clayborn to come in and fill a role as a backup/situational player. I imagine a lot of people get frustrated with a guy who was a number 1 pick that hasn’t had the production matching the draft position, so they say “just cut him.” But as far as I’m concerned, his draft position is water under the bridge. The only thing that matters is if the guy is worth signing as competition, even if it’s for backup snaps. I just don’t see why re-signing Clayborn should even be controversial if it’s for the right price. If he is beaten out by a 5th or 6th round pick, then so be it. No one is suggesting Clayborn should be counted on as some sort of solution on the D line. Solid locker room guy, hard worker, tenacious player on the field – that’s a guy who can be a good influence on your team.

  31. Pickgrin Says:

    Johnson will not be cut because we owe him too much guaranteed money. (Don’t do that again Light!) Obviously no one will trade for his current contract. We are stuck with Michael Johnson for at least 1 more year – then can cut him if need be without taking too bad a of a dead $ cap hit. I sure hope his play improves next year. He may have been injured – but I saw way too many plays this year where Johnson was not giving full effort. If I saw that plainly – then of the course the coaches can.

  32. ufcguy Says:

    I have a much different view on clayborn. Mark my words when and if we don’t resign him he will be a starter and get 7 to 9 sacks a year and will be a force against the run. He truly has been screwed by schiano and lovie smith. He has been taken out of his natural position 3 years now. Put him back from training camp and let them fight it out

  33. J Says:

    Charles Sims showed he’ll be a productive dual threat.

  34. DallasBuc Says:

    ^^^who the hell was talking about Charles Sims?

  35. Mike10 Says:

    This is a stupid article. I saw with my own eyes, this guy CAKING it play after play… We’re not stupid Pattycake

  36. []_[]Buc Says:

    Dragging down the team?

    Whose did we have that was better who would replace him?
    Hurt he was still a better option than anything we had lol.

  37. []_[]Buc Says:

    And if you disagree just name who you would throw out there on the other side of JS?

  38. []_[]Buc Says:

    Yall crack me up rofl

    Cut him! Trade him! Who would want him!

    Not only was he playing hurt but he also had to adjust to rushing from a different angle and learning a new system. If he produces next year the same people so eager to toss him aside will be singing how great he is.

  39. Teacherman777 Says:

    One more year. His contract is guaranteed.

    But also aign JPP.

    And if Johnson sucks again, them we drat his replacement in the 1st round in 2016.