G Marcus Johnson played four seasons in Minnesota after being drafted out of Ole Miss in the second round
In fashioning one of the NFL's up-and-coming offensive lines, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have emphasized strength, versatility and agility. Marcus Johnson, the newest member of that unit, fits the mold.
The Buccaneers signed Johnson on Wednesday, two days after he was released by the Oakland Raiders and two days before Tampa Bay will play its final 2009 preseason game. To make room for Johnson, the Buccaneers released veteran offensive lineman Sean Mahan.
Johnson, a second-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2005 (49th selection overall), has started at both guard and tackle in the NFL. The Buccaneers intend to install him at guard – he will be listed behind Pro Bowler Davin Joseph at right guard on the depth chart – but he has the sort of versatility that becomes very valuable among O-line reserves on game day.
The 6-6, 320-pound Johnson was signed by Oakland as an unrestricted free agent this past April after he had played in 47 games with 18 starts over four seasons in Minnesota. Johnson's 18 starts came during his first two Viking campaigns, primarily at right guard in 2005 and right tackle in 2006. He played in all 16 games in 2007, mostly on special teams, and appeared in seven contests in his final Viking season.
With the final round of roster cuts looming on Saturday, one day after the preseason-ending contest against the Houston Texans, the Bucs have adjusted their O-line lineup a couple of times. On Tuesday, Tampa Bay claimed rookie center off waivers, also from the Raiders, and released rookie guard Ryan Schmidt. The accompanying release of Mahan makes Johnson the Buccaneers most experienced backup.
Johnson was the seventh offensive lineman drafted in 2005 after a collegiate career spent blocking for current New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning at Mississippi. Johnson started all 48 games during his four years at Ole Miss, 45 at right guard and three at right tackle. He was a team captain and a second-team all-SEC selection as a senior in 2004.
The 28-year-old Johnson hails from Coffeeville, Mississippi.
Mahan, originally a fifth-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2003, was in his second stint in Tampa. After playing his first four seasons as a Buccaneer, roughly half of that time as a starter, he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an unrestricted free agent in 2007. He returned to Tampa exactly one year ago in a September 2, 2008 trade in which the Bucs sent a seventh-round pick to the Steelers. In his five total Buccaneer seasons, Mahan played in 72 games with 36 starts at guard and center.