Isaiah Johnson and Mike Liedtke reported with the rest of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the start of the team's offseason training program on Monday, but they had a little paperwork to complete before they could hit the field.
Johnson, a safety, and Liedtke, an offensive lineman, began the new league year as exclusive rights free agents after the Buccaneers extended to each of them a tender offer before the start of free agency. An exclusive rights free agent is a player with two or fewer years of accrued free agency credit and an expired contract; once they receive a tender offer, they may only negotiate with their original club.
As such, there was little doubt that Johnson and Liedtke would sign their offers, thus converting them into one-year contracts for the 2019 season. The two young players had to complete this business before they could take the field at the AdventHealth Training Center on Monday.
Both Johnson and Liedtke took a significant step forward in their respective NFL careers in 2018. Both came into the league as undrafted free agents – Johnson with the Buccaneers in 2016 and Liedtke with the Miami Dolphins in 2015 – but neither had seen more than brief cameos in the regular season until last year. That changed in 2018 when both players made the Buccaneers' active roster to begin the season and remained there throughout the campaign.
Johnson played in 15 games and logged his first four NFL starts. He finished the season with 45 tackles, one interception and two passes defensed. He also played extensively on special teams and added two stops and a fumble recovery in the kicking game. That fumble recovery led to a game-winning field goal in overtime against Cleveland in Week Seven.
Liedtke was inactive for the first seven games of the season but played in the final nine after Evan Smith landed on injured reserve. Though the Buccaneers' starting five on the offensive line rarely needed any substitution in 2018, Liedtke gave the team versatile depth. Primarily an interior lineman when training camp started last summer, he was pressed into service at left tackle in the preseason due to injuries and fared well.