The Bengals today designated DE Michael Johnson as the team’s franchise player, under terms of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

            The franchise designation gives Johnson the option to sign with the Bengals for 2013 for a salary specified by a formula within the CBA. Last season, Johnson helped lead the Bengals to the playoffs with 11.5 sacks, second-most by any Cincinnati player since 1983 (exceeded only by DT Geno Atkins’ 12.5 last season).

            “Obviously we are committed to re-signing Mike,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, “and this move is part of the process to keep a young and promising defense together. Mike has worked hard to improve himself every year during his time as a Bengal, helping us to the postseason three of four years. We have every reason to believe he will continue to grow as a leader and productive player.”

            Johnson is a free agent and will have the right to negotiate with other teams, but the franchise-player designation means that should he agree to terms with another team, the Bengals could retain him by matching the offer. Should the Bengals decline to match a competing offer, the team signing Johnson would be required to give the Bengals two first-round draft choices.

            Johnson and the Bengals are still permitted to negotiate for a multi-year contract, either before or after Johnson might elect to sign the one-year franchise-player offer for 2013.

            A fifth-year NFL player in 2013, Johnson was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after a three-sack performance at Washington in Week 3 of last season. The 6-7, 270-pounder from Georgia Tech was a Bengals third-round draft choice in 2009. He has played in every regular-season and postseason game of his Cincinnati career (67 total), and he has regular-season career totals of 23 sacks, two interceptions and 18 passes defensed.

            “This guy has come up in our system, he plays about 85 percent of our snaps, and he’s the kind of guy we love to have around,” said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. “He’s hard-working and a great team player. He’s an outstanding run defender in addition to his pass rush production. He’s got great length and size, and great speed off the edge.”