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 five-year, $43.75 million contract, has seen those struggles before and now foresees the same turnaround he had in five seasons with the 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 a growing free agent class. "When I got there, we went (to the playoffs) 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 and 3.5 last season. He said he played better last season by attacking 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: DT Clinton McDonald started for Seattle in the Super Bowl, collecting five tackles and a fumble recovery, and he said being on a championship team showed him what the Bucs need to do to become a playoff team.
"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, (the 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 TE Brandon Myers, who caught four touchdown passes last year with the Giants and four in 2012 with the Raiders, met Smith in 2009 during a predraft interview with the Bears. Chicago didn't draft him. He's excited to play for Smith now. "We had a great conversation," Myers said. "We discussed how things come full circle. I'm blessed to be here and have a coach like Coach Smith."
numbers game: Johnson will wear No. 90. New CB Alterraun Verner will wear No. 21, McDonald No. 98 and Myers No. 82