Former Detroit Lions DE, George Johnson
With the 2015 NFL Draft just three weeks away, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are about to get a serious influx of talent. In the meantime, the 90-man offseason roster remains a work in progress.
The Buccaneers announced two additions – and possibly a third – to that roster on Thursday. The team signed fifth-year linebacker Larry Dean and first-year center Ben Gottschalk; in addition, as first reported on Thursday, Tampa Bay has signed restricted free agent defensive end George Johnson of the Detroit Lions to an offer sheet. Since that agreement was officially reached on Tuesday, the Lions have until Monday to choose whether or not to match the Bucs' offer. If Detroit does not match the offer, Johnson will join the Buccaneers and the team will not have to give up any compensation to the Lions.
Dean is moving on to his third NFL team as he enters his fifth season in the league. Originally an undrafted free agent out of Valdosta State in 2011, he has carved out a nice professional career as a special teams contributor, amassing 36 kick-coverage tackles in 61 games. The 6-0, 226-pound Dean has also seen brief action on defense, recording one tackle, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Gottschalk (6-5, 293) also entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent, out of SMU, and is now working to establish a foothold in the league as Dean did. He went to training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs after signing out of SMU and was on the team's practice squad during the first week of the regular season. At SMU, he started all 24 games during his junior and senior campaigns.
As for Johnson, his potential deal with the Buccaneers was struck while many of the team's highest-ranking officials were headed from Eugene, Oregon to Tallahassee, Florida as part of a two-day private-workout junket with quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Johnson, who actually joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Buccaneers in 2010, became a restricted free agent in March when the Lions extended him the necessary tender offer. Because Johnson was tendered at his original draft position – undrafted, that is – the Bucs will not have to send a draft pick to the Lions if they end up with a completed deal.
Like many undrafted free agents, Johnson bounced between several teams early in his career as he tried to find a long-term landing spot. He played in 11 games with the Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings over a three-year period (2011-13) before finding a home in Detroit last fall. Johnson played in all 16 games for the Lions last year and contributed 26 tackles, six sacks, one pass defensed and one fumble recovery.