Update: 6:30 p.m.
Tank Johnson agreed to more than a four-year deal Monday.
The Bengals gave their starting tackle an exclamation point to cap off his comeback story. A story that began in the depths with a five-year plan.
"I think I've reached a certain level of trust in this league; an accountability," Johnson said Tuesday morning from Arizona. "And not so long ago it was so bleak. With a four-year deal it shows they understand what I bring."
The undisclosed deal also appears to have an impact on the Bengals' plans as Tuesday unfolded with Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Bryant at Paul Brown Stadium and Bills wide receiver Terrell Owens flying in from California to have a late dinner with some Bengals coaches. A Johnson deal combined with a potential Bryant multi-year contract is going to dictate how the rest of the roster is put together.
One thing became certain as Bryant finished up his meetings with the staff Tuesday afternoon and then left as the Bengals continued to mull their options.
After a two-year stint in Dallas and last year's one-year run for a Bengals defense that carved out the AFC North title, Johnson has officially put the bad old days behind him. Suspended for the first half of the 2007 season following gun charges and a 60-day stay in jail, Johnson is now entrenched as a leader in a tackle rotation with Domata Peko and Pat Sims. At 28 it seems that he's young enough to have security and mature enough to know how to use it.
"To me this is something that means a lot, that I can help teach young guys and that I'm with a team that is committed to me," Johnson said.
Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer doesn't suffer fools and after watching Johnson play in the last 12 games despite painful plantar fasciitis, he wanted him back. Johnson seemed to get better as the games got more important. He tied for the line lead with five tackles as the Bengals finished off the division sweep against Cleveland. He had five more tackles and a sack two weeks later in Minnesota. Two weeks after that with the AFC North on the line against Kansas City he led the line with his season-high seven tackles that included two for a loss.
Zimmer expected more of a pass rush from Johnson, yet he also said last week, "But everything else was probably better than I thought. For what everybody said about him, he played pretty well for us."
By the end of Tuesday, the Bengals may have an idea where they stand for the rest of free agency. And that would be pretty much pat if they swing a multi-year deal for Bryant.
But if they don't, Owens is going to be in town Tuesday night in time to have dinner with some coaches before Wednesday's visit, in which a one-year deal would no doubt be on the table. As if to highlight Bryant's youth as a main attraction, he celebrated his 29th birthday during his visit Tuesday to PBS. Owens, a controversial sort who turns 37 late in the season and would become the oldest wide receiver to ever play for the Bengals, has drawn the seal of approval from quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, the man for whom the Bengals are trying to find a running mate on the opposite side.
Bryant also has a visit set up in Washington. As The Washinton Post reports, Bruce Allen, the Redskins new general manager, was the GM in Tampa when Bryant joined the Bucs. And, *The Post *says, Redskins assistant coach Sean Mcvay worked with Bryant in Tampa in 2008 when he had a career-best 83 catches and 1,248 yards when he was named *The Sporting News *Comeback Player of the Year.
But in another report, Bryant's agent, Lamont Smith, denied the Redskins visit but said he has others lined up.
Palmer has also been texting Bryant and on Tuesday morning The Ocho tweeted, "I got 2 of the homies in Cincy today, tonio bryant and T.O. all I can say is somebody gone kiss da baby once the season starts."
As the negotiations commenced, the rest of the Bengals' business looked to be on hold, which meant no deals yet for their own free agents, such as right guard Bobbie Williams, kicker Shayne Graham, and safety Roy Williams.