Free-agent defensive end Michael Johnson’s visit ended this morning without a deal.
After visiting Winter Park yesterday, touring the area, checking out the construction site of the city’s new stadium and grabbing dinner with Vikings officials at a downtown restaurant, Johnson stayed overnight in the Twin Cities. But head coach Mike Zimmer and the Vikings were unable to close the deal and Johnson headed back to the airport this morning.
Despite his affinity for Zimmer, his first defensive coordinator in the NFL, Johnson plans to meet with the Bengals, his former team, before deciding where he wants to play in 2015.
The Vikings and the Bengals are believed to be the only teams Johnson is strongly considering.
Johnson was released by the Buccaneers on Wednesday following just one season there. Johnson, whom they signed to a five-year $43.75 million contract last offseason, was slowed by an ankle injury and had just four sacks in 2014. His 27 tackles were his lowest total since his rookie year.
It didn’t take long for Zimmer and the Vikings to call him up after his release.
And the Vikings yesterday morning picked Johnson at Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport for their first free-agent visit of the offseason. He was greeted by head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, who drove him to Winter Park for a reunion with Zimmer.
Johnson played his first five NFL seasons for the Bengals with Zimmer as his defensive coordinator. The 28-year-old had 26.5 sacks with the Bengals, including a career-high 11.5 in 2012.
The Vikings were interested in Johnson a year ago, but instead re-signed defensive end Everson Griffen to a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension. Now they are hoping to team Johnson and Griffen up in a defensive end rotation that will also include veteran Brian Robison, who will turn 32 next month, and 2014 third-round pick Scott Crichton, who didn’t play much as a rookie.
The Vikings are surely disappointed Johnson left town without a deal, but they’re still in this thing.