Lions, Bucs work out trade over George Johnson

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

The Lions might have salvaged some return for losing George Johnson after all.

Two days after disputing the terms of Johnson's offer sheet from Tampa Bay, the Lions agreed in principle to a trade to send the restricted free agent to the Buccaneers and a seventh-round draft pick (231th overall from Baltimore) in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick (168 overall from New England) in this year's draft.

According to NFL Network, the deal allows Johnson to receive the three-year, $9 million deal Tampa Bay offered to him last week.

The Lions offered Johnson an original round tender as a restricted free agent this offseason, which was worth about $1.54 million and gave the Lions the chance to match any offer he received. But because Johnson went undrafted in 2010, the Lions would've received no compensation if he signed with another team.

Johnson finally landed an offer sheet last week from the Buccaneers, and though the Lions considered matching, they contested some of the language in the contract. With the dispute, an impartial arbitrator was supposed to evaluate the contract within 10 days from Monday, but the trade should make that unnecessary.

With the deal, Johnson will return to the first team to give him a shot in the NFL as Tampa Bay signed him as an undrafted free agent.

Johnson, 27, joined the Lions last April on a one-year deal and had six sacks, six more than he had in his previous 11 NFL games from 2010-13, nine with Tampa Bay in 2011-12 and two with Minnesota in 2012.

Though the Lions signed Johnson as a practice player with defensive ends Ziggy Ansah and Jason Jones recovering from injuries, he worked his way up to the No. 3 defensive end spot after an impressive training camp and preseason.

With Johnson leaving, the Lions have now lost three of their top defensive linemen this offseason, including defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. The Lions traded this offseason for Haloti Ngata from the Ravens and signed Tyrunn Walker from the Saints to help fill the void in the middle.

On the outside, Ansah and Jones will remain the starters, but the Lions will rely on more production from Darryl Tapp, Devin Taylor and Larry Webster, who didn't play as a rookie in 2014.

The Lions should also have more cap space with Johnson leaving as his earmarked $1.54 million tender comes off the books, giving the team more than $5.6 million in space.