It's a given that the marquee free agents in this class will have plenty of suitors. That's going to be especially true for Michael Johnson.
Johnson is a 27-year-old defensive end with 26.5 sacks and 25 pass deflections in five seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. Teams will covet the guy because he's an adept pass rusher, a dominant run stopper and a snappy dresser.
There's nothing concrete yet, but Johnson has been linked to the Falcons, the Vikings, and the Buccaneers. Both Minnesota and Tampa Bay are sitting on major needs and have a ton of cap space, so if it gets to the point of a bidding war, Johnson's stated desire to play in Georgia may not be enough.
The Falcons are sitting on a healthy amount of cap space—$30 million once they release Thomas DeCoud, and that move is coming—but they can probably only land two-to-three true impact players with that money, and there's a tight window for getting those guys in the first place. If Johnson is going to command $10-plus million per year on the open market, the Falcons will know that shaves a third of their available cap space.
As long as the Falcons are planning to add at least one other pass rusher to the mix, I think that could very well be worth it to add Johnson. He's such a well-rounded player that he'll immediately fit in with what Mike Nolan likes his linemen to do—which is everything—even if he's not a truly elite pass rusher in his own right. We do have to realize that whatever the level of mutual interest, he won't be an easy signing.
Do you think the Falcons pick up Johnson?