No one can accuse the Bengals of cutting corners this year -- especially when it comes to the franchise tag. The Bengals kept Michael Johnson off the free-agent market by putting an $11.1 million tag on the defensive end. That's the most expensive tag used this year, exceeding the one placed on Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer by $500,000.
The Bengals could have opted to use the tag on offensive tackle Andre Smith, which would have cost $2.5 million less. Instead, Cincinnati went with the second-most expensive tag available. Only the non-exlusive tag on the quarterback ($14.8 million) is more than the one for defensive ends.
Let's see if this trend continues for Cincinnati. With free agency beginning next Tuesday, the Bengals are now $44 million under the salary cap. Coach Marvin Lewis told The NFL Network at the scouting combine that the Bengals' cap space needs to be spent on the team's own players.
The Bengals were the only AFC North team to use the tag this year. The last time only one team in the division did so was 2010, when the Steelers placed it on kicker Jeff Reed.