Michael Johnson gets Cincinnati Bengals' franchise tag


While the NFL and NFL Players Association have finalized the official non-exclusive franchise designation amounts, no team has used the mechanism with just three days remaining before the March 4 deadline.

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That will be changing soon. The Bengals plan to apply the $11.175 million franchise tag to defensive end Michael Johnson, a source close to the player told NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

The Bengals later confirmed Johnson had been designated as the team's franchise player.

Although the Bengals have two prime candidates for the tag in Johnson and right tackle Andre Smith, it has been our expectation all along that the former would draw the tag.

Just 26 years old and coming off a breakout season as a strong run defender with 11.5 sacks, Johnson was ranked No. 1 on Around the League's list of this year's top free-agent pass rushers.

With more salary-cap space than any other NFL team, the Bengals can turn their attention to a long-term deal for Smith and standout defensive tackle Geno Atkins before attempting to lock up Johnson by the July deadline for tagged players.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.