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Bucs need to keep Michael Johnson

TAMPA, Fla. -- By any measure, defensive end Michael Johnson didn’t have a good first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

A prized free agent from Cincinnati, Johnson was supposed to come in and give the Bucs double-digit sacks. He didn’t come close, finishing the season with four.

So logic says the Bucs should cut their losses and unload Johnson, who is to make $9 million between base salary and a roster bonus in 2015. But the Bucs need to look closely before giving up on Johnson.

In fact, they should keep him. Those four sacks don’t come close to telling the story of Johnson’s 2014 season. What a lot of critics are overlooking is that Johnson played almost the entire season with some significant injuries.

He suffered a high-ankle sprain in the season opener and kept on playing. He also suffered a broken hand later in the season and kept on playing. That says a lot about Johnson’s toughness and attitude. He’s the kind of guy you want on your team.

If healthy, Johnson’s production almost certainly will go up. That’s why the Bucs can’t afford to send him packing. They likely are going to let Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers walk as free agents. That leaves Jacquies Smith, who had 6.5 sacks, as the only serious pass-rusher.

The Bucs need Johnson. If he’s healthy, he can be the player the Bucs thought they were getting in the first place.