ORLANDO — Three free agents recently signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come highly recommended by the head coach who welcomed them into the NFL.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said the Bucs made smart decisions by adding defensive end Michael Johnson, left tackle Anthony Collins and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald in the past two weeks.
Cincinnati selected Collins in the fourth round of the 2008 draft, and he was used primarily in a backup role until a knee injury to Andrew Whitworth led to seven starts for Collins in 2013.
Collins is expected to replace Donald Penn as Tampa Bay’s starting left tackle this fall.
“Anthony didn’t get the opportunity to play quite as much (as Johnson), but every time he got the opportunity to go in he did a great job for us,’’ Lewis said Tuesday at the AFC coaches breakfast with media. “He’s really matured over time from a guy who felt he had a little chip on his shoulder to getting an opportunity and making good on it.’’
Johnson (third round) and McDonald (seventh round) were both drafted by the Bengals in 2009.
Johnson posted 26 1/2 sacks with Cincinnati, missing only one game in five seasons. He is slated to start at right end, with Adrian Clayborn shifting to the left side.
“From the time I first met Michael in Mobile, Ala. (2009 Senior Bowl), he has really gone about things the way you’d want him to do it,’’ said Lewis. “He’s grown up as a young man and he’s a stellar person all the way through.’’
The Bengals traded McDonald to Seattle in 2011 and he earned a Super Bowl ring with the Seahawks two months ago.
“McDonald is salt of the earth,’’ Lewis said. “Tampa Bay has three guys who will help them. We’ve grown all of these guys from the ground up and that’s the greatest part of the system -- if you do things the right way, you get an opportunity to be rewarded and go somewhere else with a chance to prosper.’’