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Buccaneers release Michael Johnson

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have released defensive end Michael Johnson in a mildly surprising move, per Rick Stroud.Johnson was signed to a massive, five-year, $43.5 million contract last season but managed just four sacks and very little consistent play in his first season in Tampa.

That would seem enough to cut ties with the defensive end, but releasing Johnson only saves the Buccaneers $2 million this year, and they're on the hook for $7 million in salary this year. By releasing him now, they do save $5 million in 2016 salary, which was set to become guaranteed on Friday.

Johnson's poor play was also caused, in part, by a persistent ankle injury and an odd and seemingly unnecessary change in technique. Had the Bucs kept Johnson, there's a decent chance he would've at least turned into a capable starter, if not the consistently disruptive pass rusher the Bucs were hoping to get in free agency.

Now they'll have to find another pass rusher with the $2 million they saved by cutting Johnson. That's not going to be easy.