Last year the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were praised for their signing of defensive end Michael Johnson to a huge free agent contract. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings were largely met with skepticism after re-signing defensive end Everson Griffen to a big deal.
Not to go all Chris Berman on you, but that's why they play the games.
Michael Johnson is a very good defensive end, although he showed it a lot more in 2013 with the Bengals than he did last year in Tampa. Johnson didn't live up to the five-year, $43 million contract the Bucs gave him before the 2014 season and was summarily cut this week. For the second straight offseason, Johnson is a free agent. And now there are reports that a year later, all those Vikings fans that pined for Johnson may finally get their wish--he's reportedly scheduled to visit the Vikings in the next couple of days.
The obvious tie to the Vikings for Johnson is Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who was Johnson's defensive coordinator for the first five years of his career in Cincinnati. Johnson thrived under Zimmer, especially in the 2012 and 2013 seasons where he amassed 15 sacks, 108 combined tackles, and 2 interceptions. Johnson also had a combined Pro Football Focus rating of +31.0 during those two seasons.
Defensive end isn't viewed as one of the more pressing positions of need in Minnesota at the moment, but Zimmer constantly explains how much he values depth along the defensive line. Brian Robison is turning 32 next month; last year's third round pick Scott Crichton barely saw the field and lost out on playing time to Justin Trattou; Corey Wootton had a largely disappointing 2014 season in limited playing time and probably won't be back. So the Vikings could definitely use another quality body along the edges of the defense.
Johnson has almost exclusively played right defensive end in his career, which could go against the thought he could rotate in on either side to spell Robison or Griffen. But Zimmer's familiarity with Johnson should help find the defensive end a productive spot in the lineup should he sign with the Vikings.
As Mark Craig of the Star Tribune pointed on on Twitter, Johnson has already been cut by the Buccaneers so he's considered a "street" free agent. Therefore as an added bonus, it wouldn't count against compensatory draft picks in 2016 if the Vikings sign him. Keeping extra picks is obviously a big deal to Rick Spielman, as it should be.
We'll keep you updated with more information on the Johnson visit as it becomes available.