Bengals, DL Johnson agree on 4-year contact

Published 1:23 am Monday, March 16, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals agreed to a four-deal deal with end Michael Johnson on Sunday, bringing back a player who was a key part of their defense.

Johnson left as a free agent and played last season with Tampa Bay, which released him last week. He immediately became a priority for Cincinnati, which made upgrading the defensive line one of its top goals during the offseason.

With Johnson, the Bengals had one of the NFL’s top defenses, finishing third in yards allowed in 2013. Without Johnson, the unit slipped to 22nd overall last season. Although injuries to their linebackers were a big factor, they also failed to get much out of their line.

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The Bengals were last in the league in sacks and gave up 500 yards a franchise-record three times during the season. Indianapolis piled up 482 yards and allowed only one sack during a 26-10 victory in the playoffs, the fourth year in a row that Cincinnati lost in the opening round of the postseason.

Last year, Johnson played in 14 games for Tampa Bay with four sacks. Minnesota, which is coached by former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, also was interested in signing Johnson.

“Our entire organization is just ecstatic about getting Mike back,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “He’s earned tremendous respect from coaches, teammates and management.

“He did tremendous things for us while he was here, and we look forward to having him blend back in and uplift us as defensive football team.”

Johnson played 79 games for Cincinnati from 2009-13. His best season was 2012, when he had 11 1/2 sacks and an interception. The Bengals designated him as their franchise player in 2013.

It’s the third notable move the Bengals have made with the defense in the offseason. They gave a three-year deal to linebacker Rey Maualuga, who was potentially an unrestricted free agent. They also signed free agent linebacker A.J. Hawk to a two-year contract.