Michael Johnson has been an object of speculation around Vikingland ever since Mike Zimmer was hired as head coach, and with good reason.
Johnson was coached by Zimmer in Cincinnati, and under Zimmer’s tutelage, became one of the league’s best defensive ends. Now Johnson is set to hit free agency and the Vikings, by coincidence, have the cap space to sign him.
Oh, and the Vikings happen to be in a transitional period with their defensive ends. 2013 starter Jared Allen and main contributor Everson Griffen could both leave via free agency next week, creating the need to go with the cap space.
The dots are not hard to connect. They are very large, very dark and very close together. Even if you suffer from the shakes, you can connect those dots.
Now with free agency looming, the Johnson-to-Vikings chatter is only getting louder.
Insider Ian Rapaport has added his voice to the din, tweeting this:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 7, 2014
Rapaport links to an NFL.com piece that wonders if the Vikings may be about to pluck multiple defensive players from Zimmer’s old team.
Zimmer when asked indicated that he would be positively disposed toward bringing in his former Cincinnati players, for no other reason than to speed up the process of installing his new scheme.
“It always helps because of the communication, but it’s not relative,” Zimmer told reporters earlier in the week. “I had no one in Cincinnati [when I first got there]. Matter of fact, I was the only new coach I think when I went there on defense. I had no players that came with me at that time. It’d be nice, but it’s not imperative.”
Finding guys who fit Zimmer’s scheme will be the main task during all free agency and draft scouting. The Vikings have reportedly already looked at linebacker Jasper Brinkley, and will also be speaking to linebacker Jameel McClain and cornerback Nolan Carroll.
Zimmer will have to look those players over and decide if they’re Zimmer guys or not Zimmer guys.
Michael Johnson we already know is a Zimmer guy. It makes sense to speculate on his coming over, but I don’t think we should assume it will happen just because of the Zimmer connection.
Johnson will command top dollar in the free agent market, and the Vikings might not want to play in that financial league.
Zimmer’s way is only part of the equation here. There’s also Spielman’s way. And Spielman’s way is usually about avoiding paying big money to free agents.
Johnson will only be a realistic target if the numbers stay realistic. If they go too high, Spielman will move on.