Sports Outside the Beltway

Cowboys Sign Tank Johnson

The Dallas Cowboys have signed former Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson to a two year contract. He won’t be available until some time in November.

Johnson has at most six games left on an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy even though he has been unsigned. At the time, commissioner Roger Goodell announced Johnson’s suspension, he left open the possibility of reducing it to six games, although Johnson would have to apply for early reinstatement.

The chances of Johnson’s suspension being reduced to six games could have taken a hit when he was pulled over by Gilbert, Ariz., police for driving while impaired in June, although the charges were eventually dropped. The Bears released Johnson three days after the incident.

If Goodell upholds the eight-game suspension, then the earliest he could play would be Nov. 11 at the New York Giants. If the suspension is reduced to six games, he could debut Oct. 21 at Texas Stadium against Minnesota.

Under league rules, the Cowboys will have to release a player to make room for Johnson on the active roster for one day before he will revert to the team’s suspended list.

Johnson, 25, spent his first three seasons with Chicago, coincidentally the Cowboys’ opponent Sunday. In 46 games, he was credited with 63 tackles and nine sacks.

The Cowboys’ interest in Johnson increased when starting nose tackle Jason Ferguson was lost for the season with a torn right biceps in Week 1. Jay Ratliff has replaced Ferguson in the starting lineup and the team re-signed Remi Ayodele as the backup.

The Cowboys had character concerns about Johnson when he entered the 2004 draft out of the University of Washington. Chicago drafted him in the second round.

Clarence Hill wonders how “coincidental” the timing was.

Those who believe the Cowboys aren’t using the Tank Johnson interview to get inside information on Bears — this Sunday’s opponent and Johnson’s former team — are being naive. This stuff goes on all across the league and has been for years. Teams would routinely bring in players for “tryouts” or “free agent visits” the week before playing said player’s former team.

Now that doesn’t mean the Cowboys aren’t legitimately interested in Johnson’s services as a nose tackle because they are. But the timing of this week’s visit is no coincidence.

Anything to get an edge, within the rules, I guess.

Over on the print side, Hill reports additional terms of the deal:

Because he is currently serving an eight-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy and won’t be eligible to play until the Cowboys play at the Giants Nov. 11, he will get a prorated portion of the league minimum of $510,000 in 2007.

His salary in 2008 is an incentive-laden minimum deal. He will get no signing bonus.

That makes it virtually a no-brainer for the Cowboys. Potentially, they get a great player at a bargain basement price. At worst, they pay the minimum salary for as many weeks as it takes to find out that they signed the wrong guy and put him back out on the street.

And goodness knows they could use some help at nose tackle with Jason Ferguson out for the year.

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