Forget Andy Dalton For Now... Resign Michael Johnson

Dear Cincinnati Bengals Front Office,

After watching every game this season, I have seen the "elite" Andy Dalton and the "how are you starting" Andy Dalton. I have seen the beautiful throws to Marvin Jones, A.J. Green and the smart plays against elite teams like the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers and the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots, but I have also seen the terrible decisions made in those same games. A forced throw to Green against the Packers and a throw across the body to a closing Patriots linebacker when Cincinnati sat in the red zone going in. I also have seen the dramatic drop in play over the course of the last couple weeks playing teams like Miami, Baltimore and Cleveland. They aren't bad defenses, but Dalton has looked atrocious at times during that stretch, so it begs the question... is he worth trying to resign this offseason or would somebody like say... Michael Johnson make more sense?

Let me begin by saying, I am an Andy Dalton believer. I think he has enough of the physical tools, is a winner and has the mental ability to correct mistakes, overcome his physical limitations and lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl.


Maybe it is a confidence thing right now. Maybe it is a technique thing, or it could be that he is looking to get on page with his receivers. Sure, theses are all empty excuses until he fixes it and tells us what was wrong firsthand, but I'm simply saying that when he is good, he is very, very good. We can't ignore that important fact. However, we also can't ignore that, this offseason, he will be entering his fourth and final year of his rookie contract, along with Green. Now Green will be resigned. We all know he is essential and that money has been saved in the salary cap for that resigning. The consensus is that Dalton commands another significant portion of that money though, which means that Johnson, the all-purpose tool defensive end, is presumably looking for buyers on the free agent market this upcoming February. Johnson was franchise tagged this past offseason as fellow defensive end Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins were extended instead.

I have no arguments there.

With those two signings and the assumption that Green and Dalton are signing their extensions in a couple months, the theory is that Johnson isn't getting a deal worth what he is asking for and he will be walking, but... Bengals management... I think you should bring him back and let Dalton play out his contract with the intention of resigning Dalton when other cap space clears up towards the end of the 2014-15 season.

Hear me out. Dalton is a high-potential quarterback, but has been terribly inconsistent. If he played his best more frequently, this wouldn't be a discussion, but then again the Bengals would be better than 7-4. Instead, I think you resign Johnson, who has been a playmaker on the defense that has kept Dalton in games this season. The fact of the matter is that Johnson is on the verge of being a game-changer because of how many ways he can influence a game. He has accumulated 36 tackles from the defensive end position, three sacks, eight pass deflections, one interception and two forced fumbles this season. Okay, the sack totals are down from last season's 11.5, but let's put this all in perspective. His three sacks are only behind Dunlap's seven, Atkins' six and Wallace Gilberry's five-and-a-half, but that isn't even where Johnson's biggest impact is being felt. The eight pass deflections are second on the team, only behind Terrance Newman's 14.

Second on the team... as a defensive end.

And of those eight, each seems to be at a key moment in the game. A time when momentum is shifting against the Bengals. For example, how about when he batted down Jason Campbell's pass to a wide open Greg Little a week ago against Cleveland, which prevented a sure touchdown?

Johnson's impact on the defense is in his 6'7" frame and supreme athleticism at his size. He has three interceptions over his last three seasons and just always seems to be around the ball when the game is on the line. Trust me, I want Dalton to achieve his potential and I still think he can be great, but heading into next season, how about resigning Johnson, who is a key cog to arguably the best defensive front in football, and waiting out Dalton? See what he does. Waiting out Dalton's contract may light a fire under him and may inspire a "Joe Flacco-esque" Super Bowl run. That would make Dalton considerably more expensive, but if you are really confronted with that dilemma, you are probably looking at a pretty successful season, so it wouldn't be all that bad, right?

Frankly, I don't care how you do it. Johnson is a player who, I personally feel, should be brought back, especially with the premium on pass rushers in today's NFL and his general importance to the Bengals' defense. Dalton is solid and can get much better, but he can wait on the contract front and his new contract can reflect his full first four-years as an NFL starter. I think it is more important to resign the guy who is playing a huge role in covering up Dalton's mistakes on the defensive side of the ball. Thank you for your time.


Blaine Huber


For more work from Blaine, check out his website, Football Fan Source, for weekly predictions and other football content -

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