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Lions trade George Johnson to Buccaneers, ending contract dispute

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions have agreed to a swap in late-round picks in exchange for defensive end George Johnson coming to Tampa, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The NFL has yet to approve the deal, but there's no reason to believe they won't.

The Lions had tendered Johnson as a restricted free agent, which means teams could sign him to offer sheets, but the Lions had the right to match any such offer. The Bucs tendered Johnson a three-year, $9 million contract with a reported $2.75 million first-year cap hitand de-escalators that could lower the total value of the contract to $7 million. The Lions were disputing whether they would have to match the full $9 million contract, or just the $7 million deal, but this trade sidesteps all of that,

George Johnson had a minor breakout season in his first season with the Lions last year, recording the first six sacks of his career. He'd previously been a member of the Bucs and Vikings, but barely got any playing time -- though he did flash some skills in the time he did get. Johnson's a lanky speed rusher who should compete with Jacquies Smith, William Gholston, T.J. Fatinikun and a likely draft pick for playing time on either side of the defensive line. There's a good chance he starts, but he will at minimum add some much-needed depth to a very light group of edge rushers.

Johnson has the potential to be a pretty good player and pass-rusher, though relying on him to singlehandedly revitalize the Bucs' pass rush would be foolish. Still, trading for Johnson not only boosts the Bucs' pass-rush, but also lowers the pressure to select an edge rusher high in the draft -- meaning they can use their second- and third-round picks to add some much-needed offensive linemen instead.