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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Turn to Trade to Acquire Johnson

After Tampa Bay's attempt to sign former Lions DE George Johnson as a restricted free agent ran into complications, the Bucs instead used a trade of late-round picks to acquire the pass-rusher.

Check out photos from George Johnson's breakout season with the Lions.

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have landed former Detroit Lions defensive end George Johnson, though not on the exact day they originally expected, and not exactly in the manner they originally intended.

On Wednesday, the Buccaneers and Lions completed a trade that would send Johnson, who played in all 16 games and recorded six sacks in 2014, to Tampa at the cost of an exchange of 2015 draft picks. Tampa Bay sent the second of their two fifth-round picks, #168 overall, to Detroit and the Lions sent back the first of their two seventh-round picks, #231 overall.

The Buccaneers originally acquired that fifth-round pick last October in a trade that sent linebacker Jonathan Casillas and a sixth-round pick to the New England Patriots. The Lions acquired pick #231 from the Baltimore Ravens as part of their trade for defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. The selection originally belonged to the Miami Dolphins.

Though the Johnson trade was reported on Wednesday morning, it was not finalized between the two teams until later in the afternoon.

That deal was struck after the Buccaneers' original attempt to sign Johnson away from the Lions as a restricted free agent ran into complications. Tampa Bay signed the fourth-year veteran to an offer sheet on Tuesday, April 7, giving the Lions five business days to either match the offer or let Johnson join the Buccaneers. The tender offer the Lions had extended to Johnson before free agency allowed them to match any offer made by another team but did not give them the right to any draft-pick compensation if they chose not to match.

That five-day period made Monday, April 13 the deadline for the Lions' decision. However, Detroit challenged a clause in the Buccaneers' offer to Johnson, which sent the matter to an arbitrator. It is unclear whether the matter would have ultimately held up the process – beyond the 10-day arbitration period – but the two teams erased the uncertainty by agreeing to a trade instead.

Johnson will join the Buccaneers on the terms of the three of the three-year contract offer he signed last week. Technically, Tampa Bay rescinded that offer and Detroit then signed him to the same deal before trading Johnson, and that contract, to the Buccaneers.

This actually marks Johnson's return to the team; he began his NFL career as an undrafted free agent with Tampa Bay in 2010. He spent most of his rookie season and the first month of the 2011 campaign on the Bucs' practice squad before getting a promotion to the active roster and appearing in four games. He made the team again in 2012 but was released in November and picked up by the Minnesota Vikings, playing in a total of seven games between the two teams.


]( 6-4, 265-pound Johnson didn't appear in a game in 2013 and was released by Minnesota in November. However, he signed with the Lions last spring and proceeded to have a breakout season. His contributions to the NFL's second-ranked defense included 29 tackles, one pass defensed, one fumble recovery and the aforementioned half-dozen sacks. The Buccaneers are hoping that Johnson can contribute to a pass-rush that produced 36 QB takedowns last season.

The Bucs will still head into this year's draft with a total of eight picks. In addition to the pick acquired from Detroit in Wednesday's trade, the team also has its own picks in the first three rounds and Round Seven (#1, #34, #65 and #218), the St. Louis Rams' picks in Rounds Four and Six (#99 and #184) and the Ravens' pick in Round Five (#162).

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