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Bengals bring back defensive end Michael Johnson

After a pit stop in Tampa Bay, Michael Johnson is coming back to the Bengals. Cincinnati beat out former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer of the Vikings to bring back their defensive end one season after he left for a lucrative contract with the Bucs. He will return to Cincinnati on a four-year deal.635620260055443321-XXX-USATSI-7564633

Johnson played for five seasons with the Bengals, suiting up for 79 games plus four postseason games while recording 26.5 sacks and 27 passes defensed. Last season in Tampa Bay, he played in 14 games while battling a high ankle sprain, contributing four sacks and two forced fumbles, but saw the Bucs opt to part ways essentially paying $16 million for one season of work.

Now he returns to a defense and home where he fills the Bengals top offseason priority of improving their defensive line production. Finding a fit through free agency a team knows it can trust and arrive already possessing a comfort level is a rarity. That’s why this ended up being the ideal scenario for the Bengals.

“Our entire organization is just ecstatic about getting Mike back,” Marvin Lewis said. “He’s earned tremendous respect from coaches, teammates and management. He did tremendous things for us while he was here, and we look forward to having him blend back in and uplift us as defensive football team.” Johnson, 28, visited with Minnesota on Friday, but left Saturday morning without a contract and after a day of meals and negotiations with the Bengals he inked late Sunday morning.

In an interesting turn of events, the Bengals will receive what’s likely to be a third-round compensatory pick this year for the loss of Johnson to Tampa even while he’s back on the team. Cincinnati now has three pillars of their defensive line, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Johnson all locked up through the 2018 season.