Dec 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson (93) against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium. Bengals defeated the Ravens 34-17. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Rumor: Tampa Bay Buccaneers "Making a Hard Push" To Sign DE Michael Johnson

While the offense in Tampa Bay is certainly in need of an overhaul, Lovie Smith has some work to do to get the Buccaneers’ defense where he wants it. He has superstars at every level, but he’s lacking the edge pass rusher he needs to get after the quarterback using only the front four.

According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago TribuneSmith and his new GM Jason Licht are making moves to secure the services of the best defensive end available this spring.

Michael Johnson is a very talented player, who has 26.5 career sacks, and has an even bigger impact with his consistent hurries and hits on opposing quarterbacks.

The former Bengal finished 2013 with only 3.5 sacks, but according to Pro Football Focus, his QB Hurry and QB hit totals were on par with other top pass rushers like Greg Hardy, Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake. He also finished second in PFF’s run grades, meaning the 27-year-old is a do-it-all talent at the end position.

Johnson has the height to influence the passing game, as well, as he frequently bats down throws at the line of scrimmage.

The Buccaneers could certainly use a top-flight defensive end, especially because (as Biggs mentioned) it’s a priority for Lovie Smith. Johnson represents the best option in free agency this year, and while he’ll come at a high price, it will be worth it to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

However, the Buccaneers are not alone in their pursuit of Johnson, and they’ll have to do a lot of convincing to land the Georgia Tech product. Early reports say at least six teams are interested in Johnson, with others likely calling his agent to figure out his price tag.

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  • Tom Weissmann

    I’d agree with signing Johnson. If the Bears end up signing him, do you think they’ll release Peppers and subsequently the Bucs going after him? I would think putting out there they are interested in pass rushers and not getting the first choice wouldn’t dampen Licht’s mood in his pursuit of getting a different one.