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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

New Bucs DE Johnson familiar with turnarounds



TAMPA -- Michael Johnson understands the Bucs won only four games last year and haven't won a playoff game in 11 seasons.

The free-agent defensive end, signed by Tampa Bay to a lucrative five-year, $43.75-million contract, has seen those struggles before, and now foresees the same kind of turnaround he enjoyed in five seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.

"Before I got to Cincinnati, they'd been to the playoffs one time in (18) years," Johnson said Wednesday as the Bucs introduced the first four members of an impressive and growing free-agent class. "When I got there, we went four out of my five years. Just like Tampa's coming off a 4-12 season, I had a 4-12 season in Cincinnati my second year. I know what it's like to go through that. I know what it's like to climb out of that."

The Bucs see Johnson as one of the pieces missing from 2013, an elite pass-rusher who was rated by some among the top five available free agents at any position. He had 11.5 sacks in 2012, but saw that number drop to 3.5 last season, though he said he played better football by attacking opposing offenses in other ways.

"Anybody who watched the film from 2012 to 2013 could see that my play trended upward," he said. "I plan on it continuing to trend upward and hopefully the sacks go up ... as well. I was very disruptive, even more so than I was the year before."

LEARNED FROM CHAMPS: Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald started for Seattle in the Super Bowl, collecting five tackles and a fumble recovery, and he said coming from a championship team showed him what the Bucs need to do to become a playoff team again.

"It's going to take hard work, it's going to take bringing your lunch pail every day," he said. "It's going to take coaching, it's going to take criticism, it's going to take honesty ... Like me and Coach (Lovie) Smith talked about, (Super Bowl) was more so a reward for the hard work we put in. I believe when we put the hard work in here, we'll get the reward."

FAMILIAR FACE: New tight end Brandon Myers, who caught four touchdowns last year with the Giants and the same in 2012 with the Raiders, met Lovie Smith in 2009 during a pre-draft interview with the Bears. Chicago didn't draft him, but he's excited to play for Smith with the Bucs.

"We had a great conversation," Myers said. "Obviously things didn't work out, but we discussed how things come full circle. It's funny how things worked out, and I'm blessed to be here and have a coach like Coach Smith."

THIS AND THAT: Johnson will wear No. 90 for the Bucs, while new cornerback Alterraun Verner will wear No. 21, McDonald No. 98 and Myers No. 82 ... The Bucs aren't done in free agency, with Bears corner Charles Tillman, Bengals tackle Anthony Collins, Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith, Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher and Panthers WR Ted Ginn all visiting as prospective signees Wednesday. Panthers corner Captain Munnerlyn is also reportedly visiting this week.

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 10:15pm]


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