CINCINNATI - The Bengals opened the free agency season Tuesday by cutting center Kyle Cook and losing defensive end Michael Johnson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Cook started every game for the Bengals last season. But Cook is 30 and was due $2.5 million in salary in 2014 and 2015, according to Rotoworld.com.
Johnson, arguably the top defensive end in the market, agreed to a $43.75 million, five-year deal with the Buccaneers, according to ESPN.
That includes $24 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN sources.
Offensive tackle Anthony Collins could be next to go, maybe joining Johnson in Tampa Bay
The Bengals re-signed Brandon Tate, their kick/punt returner, just hours before he would have become an unrestricted free agent.
Tate's 24.8-yard average on kickoff returns (over 2011-13) is the franchise’s career record, and his 9.9 norm on punt returns is second.
“We’re glad to get back one of our core special teams players,” said Darrin Simmons, Bengals special teams coordinator. “I think this could be a real breakout year for him.”
The Bengals made tender offers to linebacker Vincent Rey and receivers Andrew Hawkins and Dane Sanzenbacher last week, leaving them restricted free agents.
All three can negotiate with other teams until May 2, but the Bengals can keep them by matching any offer.