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Bucs reportedly eye Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson

Defensive end Michael Johnson had 3½ sacks in 2013 and 11½ sacks in 2012 for the Bengals.

Defensive end Michael Johnson had 3½ sacks in 2013 and 11½ sacks in 2012 for the Bengals.

TAMPA — The first 36 hours of free agency's contact period came and went quietly with NFL teams and agents, knowing contracts can't be signed until Tuesday, hesitant to say much.

One connection made is the Bucs' interest in defensive end Michael Johnson of the Bengals. The Bucs and new coach Lovie Smith are making a "hard push" to sign him, the Chicago Tribune reported Saturday night.

Profootballfocus.com rates Johnson the No. 7 free agent regardless of position and credited him with 61 pass pressures last season. He also had nine passes defensed and 3½ sacks. But Johnson, a 2009 third-round pick out of Georgia Tech, had 11½ sacks in 2012, and the 6-foot-7, 270-pounder has played in pass coverage while an outside linebacker.

Multiple media outlets tied Johnson, 27, to the Vikings, where former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is now coach. But Sunday, the Vikings re-signed defensive end Everson Griffin, 26, to a deal the Associated Press reported is for five years, $42.5 million ($20 million guaranteed). Griffin, 26, has 17½ sacks over the past three seasons.

Chicago and Atlanta also have been connected to Johnson.

More Bucs: Free agent linebacker Dekoda Watson is set to meet with the team today and, if unsigned, start meeting with other teams Tuesday. … Receiver and kick returner Eric Page has not been offered a contract.

Jets cut Cromartie

The Jets cut cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie, who turns 30 in April, was to make $14.98 million in 2014, including a $5 million roster bonus due later this month. His exit saves New York about $9.5 million for the salary cap. The Jets said there is a chance the former Florida State standout could return at a lesser salary.

Allen leaving Vikings: The agent for defensive end Jared Allen said his client will not re-sign with Minnesota. Ken Harris did not say which teams Allen, 31, is considering.

Bears-Bennett: The Bears expect to acquire defensive end Michael Bennett when the signing window opens Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reported. The former Buc had a team-high 8½ sacks for Seattle in 2013. Brother Martellus is a Bears tight end.

Chris Johnson trade? The Titans, unwilling to pay Chris Johnson $8 million for 2014, will try to trade the running back and cut him if they fail to do so, profootballtalk.com reported.

Mendenhall done: Running back Rashard Mendenhall, 26, retired after five seasons with Pittsburgh and one with Ari­zona. He wrote in a column on huffingtonpost.com: "I feel like I've done it all. I've been to two Super Bowls; made a bunch of money." He added he didn't like how "the business of entertainment … shifted the game and the sport of football in the NFL."

Colts: Starting cornerback Vontae Davis is close to re-signing, cbssports.com reported.

Dolphins: Left tackle Branden Albert has made major progress toward a deal, profootballtalk.com reported. He spent his first six seasons with the Chiefs.

Third Raven arrested: Baltimore guard Jah Reid was arrested on two misdemeanor charges of battery after an incident at a strip club in Key West. Reid punched and kicked one man and punched another, according to a police report. He's the third Raven arrested over a 22-day span. Running back Ray Rice and his fiancee face simple assault charges in Atlantic City, and receiver Deonte Thompson faces a charge of marijuana possession in Gainesville.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Bucs reportedly eye Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson 03/09/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 10, 2014 12:07am]

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