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Michael Johnson optimistic he’ll work out a deal with the Bengals

Max Starks, Michael Johnson

Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Max Starks (78) blocks Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson (93) in the NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)


Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson had the best season of his career at the right time: Johnson’s 11.5-sack year in 2012 came in the fourth and final season of the rookie contract he signed as a third-round draft pick in 2009. So now Johnson is one of the best pass rushers hitting free agency, and he’s ready to cash in.

But he hopes to cash in by staying in Cincinnati. Johnson said on NFL AM that the Bengals are a franchise heading in the right direction, and he wants to be a part of keeping the Bengals going in the right direction.

“Everything will work itself out and I’ll be in the best situation -- hopefully that’s in Cincinnati,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a good thing going. We’ve got to continue to improve, make some more strides and make even more noise. We’ve done a little bit but there’s a lot more left to do. We’ve got a great group of young guys and I’m a part of that, and I look forward to continuing to be a part of that for many years to come.”

Johnson said he’d prefer to get a long-term deal and doesn’t want the Bengals to put the franchise tag on him, but he knows that isn’t his choice. One way or the other, the Bengals have plenty of cap space, and it seems unlikely that they’ll let a good young player get away.