MINNEAPOLIS -- Now that Michael Johnson appears to have a new team, agreeing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on what ESPN's Josina Anderson reports is a five-year, $43.75 million deal, there are a few interesting wrinkles to examine as the news relates to the Vikings.
First, Johnson's deal is just a hair above the five-year, $42.5 million contract the Vikings gave Everson Griffen over the weekend. A league source said on Monday night the Vikings didn't turn Johnson down. It's possible Johnson already had his sights set elsewhere, and all the particulars of his deal -- including $24 million in guaranteed money -- are just a tick above Griffen's. If Griffen's deal was a benchmark for Johnson, the Vikings might have helped set the defensive end's market.
It's also interesting that Johnson will be playing in Tampa Bay for former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who is the Buccaneers' new defensive coordinator, instead of Mike Zimmer, his old defensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Zimmer's system preaches gap discipline and engaging blockers before getting up the field, and after he posted 11.5 sacks in 2012, Johnson showed that was a bit of an anomaly in Zimmer's system in 2013, when he had just 3.5 sacks. He'll likely see those numbers go up as he takes the right end spot in Tampa Bay, where Jared Allen played for the Vikings and Julius Peppers played for Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith in Chicago. Johnson should see his sack numbers go up, while the Vikings will have to meld their new system with Griffen's strengths. He's versatile enough that the Vikings should be able to use him in a number of ways, but he'll have to learn a scheme that figures to be markedly different from the one the Vikings had in the past.
In some senses, it might have made more sense for Griffen to go to Tampa Bay and Johnson to come to Minnesota, based on what each player had been doing in the past. Now we'll see how each does with a big deal and a new set of responsibilities.