Cincinnati Bengals

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Bengals bring back Michael Johnson

The Cincinnati Bengals have signed Michael Johnson to a free-agent contract, bringing the defensive end back to where he started his career.

A third-round pick in 2009, Johnson played five seasons in Cincinnati before signing a five-year, $43.75 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last offseason. But Johnson struggled with injuries and a new defensive alignment in his first season in Tampa, recording four sacks and two forced fumbles in 14 games, and the team cut him last week.

Johnson visited the Minnesota Vikings — who are coached by Mike Zimmer, the man who was Johnson’s defensive coordinator all five years in Cincinnati — on Friday before flying to Cincinnati to meet with the Bengals yesterday.

“Our entire organization is just ecstatic about getting Mike back,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement. “He’s earned tremendous respect from coaches, teammates and management. He did tremendous things for us while he was here, and we look forward to having him blend back in and uplift us as defensive football team.”

Johnson had 26.5 sacks in his five seasons in Cincinnati, including a career-high 11.5 in 2012.

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His signing fills the need for another edge rusher after a season in which the Bengals ranked last in the league with 20 sacks.

Johnson played in 79 games with 45 starts for the Bengals from 2009-13. The team used the franchise tag on him in 2013, and that year he led the defensive line in tackles (74) and had 33 quarterback pressures and 3.5 ssacks.

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