Bucs Making a “Hard Push” for Top Defensive Free Agent

By: Justin Pawlowski - on twitter: @CommishOnline

As the legal tampering period began for NFL teams at noon on Saturday, many Buccaneer media and fans wondered what the first move of their regime would be.

After releasing long-time guard Davin Joseph, the early assumption was that the Bucs would 1st look to offensive linemen, but it’s tough to get the defensive mentality out of Lovie Smith.

Much like he did in 2010 with the Bears in signing Julius Peppers, Lovie Smith is looking for a dominant defensive end to come off the edge and provide the necessary pass rush to make his defense work.

Johnson, 27, has been with the Bengals for 5 seasons since being selected in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft. He was well regarded as having all of the natural gifts necessary to be a dominant defensive end coming out of college, which he displayed at the combine, but his film did not match the gifts that he had. Because of the fear of Johnson being a “workout warrior,” he fell to the 3rd round.

Johnson became a full-time starter for the Bengals in 2012 and recorded 11.5 sacks. His sack production dropped to just 3.5 in 2013, but he batted down 9 passes from opposing quarterbacks.

Currently, the Bucs, Bears, and Vikings have all been linked to Johnson.

After releasing Davin Joseph, the Bucs have around $25 million under the cap, but a signing of Michael Johnson would surely take up a big chunk of that cap room. High interest in Michael Johnson might also mean more cuts or restructuring of deals could be coming soon to add even more cap space.

Follow Justin Pawlowski on twitter @Commishonline for updates on the NFL Draft and the Bucs.

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