1:25pm: The Buccaneers will send the Lions a fifth-round pick in exchange for Johnson’s services, according to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com. The Buccaneers will also receive a seventh-round pick from the Lions as part of the trade.
7:50am: More than a week after he first sign an offer sheet with the Buccaneers, defensive end George Johnson is finally officially heading to Tampa Bay, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. Stroud reports (via Twitter) that the Lions and Bucs have agreed to a trade that will allow the Bucs to land Johnson, with the two clubs swapping late-round picks.
While it’s not clear yet exactly which picks are involved in the swap, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets that the deal is “done,” pending league and union approval. The CBA allows for a player who is signed for an offer sheet to be traded, though a certain procedure must be followed in that instance — presumably, the Lions and Bucs have followed that procedure here.
The offer sheet Johnson signed with the Bucs initially was worth a total of $9MM over three years, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that the defensive lineman will still receive that amount. Restricted free agency gives teams five days to match an offer sheet, but before the Lions’ deadline rolled around on Monday, Detroit disputed the offer sheet, seeking a clarification on exactly what terms must be matched, since the contract included de-escalators for years two and three. Working out a trade agreement allows the two sides to avoid having an arbitrator make a ruling on the issue.
An undrafted free agent in 2011, Johnson originally signed multiple contracts early in his career with the Buccaneers, and spent parts of the next two seasons with the club. The 27-year-old was quietly effective in 2014, appearing in all 16 games for the Lions and earning a positive grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), largely thanks to his excellent pass-rushing acumen.
In Tampa Bay, Johnson figures to slot in at one of the defensive end spots along the team’s defensive line, essentially replacing Michael Johnson, who was released.