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Buccaneers, Lions dispute George Johnson's contract

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions are in a dispute over George Johnson's contract. The Bucs offered the restricted free agent a contract and the Lions had until today to decide to match it or let him sign with Tampa Bay, but the parties now disagree over which part of the contract needs to be matched, exactly.

According to Tim Twentyman, an impartial arbitrator will rule on which terms have to be matched within 10 days. Once the ruling is in, the Lions will have two days to match the contract.

The fact that there's a dispute over the contract means that there's at least some interest from the Detroit Lions in keeping Johnson, and teams that want to keep their players generally find a way to do so. The Lions have very little cap room, but they can make more by restructuring other players' contracts or simply cutting someone, if they really want to keep Johnson. And they now have an extra 12 days to do so.

The Bucs' contract offer called for a $2.75 million cap and cash hit in 2014, per Dave Birkett, which the Lions can match with their current cap space. The Bucs may have pulled some weird trick with the conditions in the contract which would make Johnson's contract more expensive for the Lions than the Bucs, but ever since the Vikings used a poison pill like that to finagle Steve Hutchinson from the Seattle Seahawks, the NFL has frowned on the use of those poison pills and removed most of the options to do so from teams' toolboxes. It sure seems like the Bucs managed to find something like it, though.