DE Michael Johnson to visit Vikings

The Vikings will be visiting with defensive end Michael Johnson, likely this week.

The Minnesota Vikings will have their first major defensive free agent in for a visit, as first reported by ESPN.

Defensive end Michael Johnson, who was a consideration for the Vikings last year in free agency, will make Minnesota his first visit after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday.

Johnson, of course, knows Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer well. Zimmer was the defensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals when Johnson built up his resume there during his first five seasons in the NFL.

Johnson’s best season was in 2012, when he had 11½ sacks and 52 tackles. For his career, he has 229 tackles and 30½ sacks to go with 25 passes defensed and five forced fumbles.

The Bucs released Johnson on Wednesday, a year after they signed him to a five-year, $43.8 million contract. The Bucs saved only $2 million by releasing Johnson, as he has a $7 million guaranteed in 2015. He had no offsets in his contract with Tampa Bay, meaning he will collect that money from them but is free to sign elsewhere and earn a double income in 2015.

It’s unclear what sort of role Johnson would have with the Vikings, but he has been a full-time starter since 2012.

The Vikings signed Everson Griffen to a five-year, $42.5 million contract last year with $19.8 million guaranteed. Brian Robison, the left defensive end, is still under contract until 2017 and has a $4.15 million salary for 2015 and still has $3 million in prorated signing bonus, meaning he isn’t likely to be released for much cap relief.

Still, Johnson would at the very least provide a valuable rotational piece at defensive end, if not contribute in a starting role. Their main backup defensive end in 2014, Corey Wootton, is a free agent and it doesn’t appear the Vikings are bringing him back.

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