Riders want to reunite with disruptive defensive lineman Micah Johnson

Photo courtesy: Hannah Souster

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have had a change of heart.

Following the decision to move on from Micah Johnson after the 2019 campaign — the 32-year-old signed with the B.C. Lions for the 2020 CFL season — Jeremy O’Day wants to bring him back to Riderville, per league sources.

Johnson inked a one-year pact worth $200,000 with the Lions, but that was all for not due to the coronavirus pandemic. During his one year in Regina, the six-foot-two, 278-pounder earned $250,000, which made Johnson the highest-paid defensive player in the CFL that season.

In 2019, Johnson suffered two separate high-ankle sprains which should have caused him to miss six to eight weeks, but he played injured for the Riders. Even though Johnson had a lower sack total than expected in Saskatchewan, advanced analytics in the football operations department displayed clear data.

Johnson was doubled teamed on over 80 percent of his snaps. All the attention from opposing offences allowed linebackers Derrick Moncrief, Solomon Elimimian and Cameron Judge to be free and make plays.

During his final season in Calgary, Johnson was a unanimous CFL all-star producing 28 tackles, 14 quarterback sacks — second-most in the league — with three forced fumbles and one interception in 2018. That’s how he became known as the most disruptive inside force in the three-down league.

Through seven CFL seasons, Johnson has recorded 184 tackles, 45 sacks, six forced fumbles and two interceptions in 96 games. When used properly, Johnson still has the ability to be a game-wrecker from the interior of a defence.

After declining to pay Charleston Hughes, general manager Jeremy O’Day has shifted his focus to signing Johnson. However, O’Day will have to best other suitors. For example, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers displayed an interest during the negotiation window in the defensive tackle.

The winner of the off-season battle on the prairies could net Johnson, unless a mystery team swoops in at the last minute when the market opens.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.