Bengals writer thinks big name free agent ends up with Vikings


NFL fans need to get ready for a lot of action with the free-agent signing period about to open. Teams can start talking with prospective free agents on Saturday, and then begin signing them when the doors officially open for business at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

General managers throughout the NFL get in line for players like they're shopping for a Coach purse for their wife on Black Friday. The line is long and sometimes the item on their wish list is gone before they step foot in the store.

The Vikings could go for a bunch of doorbuster deal-like players or pay full price, and then some, for one of the top free agents available.

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson is a name to watch. He was recently listed as the No. 4 free-agent available by Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback. MMQB linked Johnson to the Vikings knowing his standing relationship with new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, who ran the Bengals defensive the previous five seasons.

The franchise kept him off the market last season. Likely won’t happen again. He’s a physical freak at 6-7 and 260 pounds and tough against the run, but could improve as pass-rusher. Best fit: Vikings. New coach Mike Zimmer gives them an edge.

Bengals beat reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer Paul Dehner Jr. also believes the Vikings could have an inside edge on signing Johnson.

"My gut still says he ends up in Minnesota, but my percentage chance he stays is a higher number today than it was a few weeks ago. I’d place it around 40 percent," he said.

The higher number Dehner Jr. wrote about was a reference to the NFL's rising salary cap, which is expected to be around $133 million this year, or $10 million for than expected. That means teams might be willing to spend more money on talented players like Johnson.

Johnson, 27, finished with just 3 1/2 sacks in 2013, but he tallied an impressive 11 1/2 in 2012. Still, he's one of the most coveted free agents available because of his age, size, ability to swat the ball at the line-of-scrimmage and attack the quarterback.

ESPN Bengals reporter Coley Harvey also thinks Johnson could be wearing purple next season.

It stands to reason that if he doesn't re-sign with the Bengals he'll likely follow former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to Minnesota. Zimmer now serves as the head coach of a Vikings team that has a veteran free agent defensive end in Jared Allen. As Zimmer looks to place his imprint on the franchise, who better to help than one of his top former players?

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