Bengals have their Tank

By Joe Reedy
Updated: April 8, 2009

CINCINNATI – After concentrating most of their free-agent priorities on offense, the Bengals made a move geared toward improving their pass rush, signing Tank Johnson to a one-year deal.

“Tank had a good meeting with the Bengals last Thursday and is excited to play for Marvin Lewis, (defensive coordinator) Mike Zimmer and (defensive line coach) Jay Hayes,” Johnson’s agent, Jerrold Colton, said.

Said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis in a statement: “We had a promising defensive performance last season, and the addition of Tank will increase our ability to apply pressure on the football. That is our focus this offseason, to step up that pressure, and Tank is a proven guy who can do that against the run and the pass.”

After being released by Chicago in 2007, Johnson spent two seasons with Dallas, but struggled as a converted nose tackle in the Cowboys’ 3-4 alignment.

He had 45 tackles, including three for loss, a sack and nine quarterback pressures last year. He also had a forced fumble, which came against the Bengals during a Week Five 31-22 loss at Dallas.

With the Bengals, Johnson would be playing in a 4-3, which he has his greatest success. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said last week that Johnson would be playing in a three technique, which is more of a pressure type of defender with pass rushing ability.

“In the 3-4 nose tackle wasn’t really his thing,” Zimmer said. “When he was in Chicago he did well when he played there. Playing in a three technique gives him greater flexibility to play both sides. We needed a pressure type of player who can create havoc and push the pocket.”

In three seasons with the Bears, Johnson (6-foot-3, 305 pounds) had nine sacks while playing in 46 games with 15 starts. He also had 101 tackles, including six for loss, four pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Johnson’s signing also continues club president Mike Brown’s run of giving players second chances. Last year he re-signed Chris Henry, after releasing him four months prior, and signed running back Cedric Benson.

To his credit, Johnson has been incident free in Dallas, but it was his run of off-the-field transgressions in Chicago that led to his release four weeks prior to the start of training camp in 2007.

Before being released, Johnson served a 60-day sentence – a probation violation stemming from a gun charge. That, and other incidents, led to an eight-game suspension by the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

Commissioner Roger Goodell gave Johnson the chance to reduce the suspension by two games if there was “no further adverse involvement with law enforcement.” Three weeks later he was arrested for DUI, a charge that was subsequently thrown out.

One night after the gun violation in Dec. 2006, Johnson and his friend, William Posey, went to a Chicago nightclub where Posey was fatally shot. While Johnson was not involved in the incident, he was suspended by the Bears for one game. Johnson was on probation at the time.

Johnson is the third unrestricted free agent from another team to sign with the Bengals this offseason, joining wide receiver Laveranues Coles and quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan. Running back Cedric Benson, linebacker Darryl Blackstock and safety Chris Crocker were UFAs who re-signed with the team.