Lions Disputing Bucs’ Offer To George Johnson

MONDAY, 2:07pm: The Lions are disputing the terms of the Buccaneers’ offer sheet, reports Tim Twentyman of (Twitter link). It’s not clear what Detroit is contesting, but an independent arbitrator will “identify all terms that that have to be matched” within 10 days, per Twentyman (Twitter link), who adds that the Lions will then have two days to match the offer.

WEDNESDAY, 3:38pm: The offer sheet Johnson signed with the Bucs is worth a total of $9MM over three years, a source tells Garafolo (Twitter link). It’s not clear yet whether the Lions will decide to match it.

TUESDAY, 8:13pm: The Buccaneers have signed Lions restricted free agent George Johnson to an offer sheet, according to Scott Smith of (Twitter link). While we don’t yet know the financial terms, Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports tweets that the deal is for three years. Detroit will have five days to match the offer to its defensive end.

An undrafted free agent in 2011, Johnson originally signed, coincidentally, with the Buccaneers, and spent parts of the next two seasons with the club. Tampa hosted Johnson for a visit last week, signalling their interest, and while we don’t know the terms of the Bucs’ offer, there’s a decent chance he ends up with the team. He’d slot in at one of the defensive end spots along Tampa Bay’s defensive line, essentially replacing Michael Johnson, who was released.

The Lions tendered Johnson at the lowest level, meaning that while they’ll be able to match Tampa Bay’s offer, they won’t receive any compensation if they decline to match. The 27-year-old Johnson was quietly effective last season, appearing in all 16 games and earning a positive grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), largely thanks to his excellent pass-rushing acumen.

The Lions have only a tad over $3.5MM in cap space, so it could be tough for them to match any offer sheet, no matter the size. With Haloti Ngata, Ezekiel Ansah, and Jason Jones set to count about $17.5MM against the cap in 2015, Detroit could be wary of investing any more money in its defensive line.

Johnson is the second restricted free agent to sign an offer sheet today, joining Sean Richardson of the Packers.

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