Buccaneers sign Michael Johnson to five-year contract

John Grieshop

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are grabbing the best pass-rusher they can find in Michael Johnson.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have agreed to sign defensive end Michael Johnson to a five-year contract worth $43.75 million with $24 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson. That deal has not been announced and can't be made official until 4:00 PM ET today, when free agency officially opens.

Johnson was the top free agent on the market, and the Bucs made upgrading their pass rush a priority this offseason, making this a perfect fit. Johnson notched just 3.5 sacks in 15 games last year, but the 27-year-old put up a much more impressive 61 quarterback pressures per Pro Football Focus' measures. PFF ranked him as the top available edge defender, and he graded out just slightly worse than Greg Hardy.

Johnson should immediately help the team's defensive end position, and he's likely to start opposite Adrian Clayborn. With Da'Quan Bowers, Steven Means and William Gholston the Bucs have three athletic and talented backups to add to their two starters. The team will hope to develop at least one of those three players into a quality pass-rusher.

For the third straight season now the Bucs are making a splash in free agency, as they're also expected to sign Dexter McCluster and Anthony Collins, and should be players for Josh McCown as well as several other free agents. Lovie Smith has made it clear that he wants to upgrade the roster across the board, and spend to the salary cap limit to do so.

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