Johnson was originally given an original pick tender by the Lions this off-season, which gave them the right of first refusal. The Buccaneers signed Johnson to a 3-year, 9 million dollar deal, which the Lions matched in a sign and trade that sends a 5th rounder to Detroit and a 7th rounder to Tampa Bay. Johnson is the definition of a one-year wonder. A 2010 undrafted free agent out of Rutgers, Johnson played a combined 155 snaps in his first 4 seasons in the NFL, spending time on both the Buccaneers’ and the Vikings’ rosters, not recording a single sack, and not playing a single snap in 2013. Detroit signed him as a camp body last off-season and he ended up not just making the final roster, but recording his first 7 sacks of his career.
The Buccaneers are banking that Johnson (who was signed off their practice squad by the Vikings in 2012) is more of a late bloomer than a one-year wonder, signing him to this 3-year, 9 million dollar deal and swapping a 5th rounder for a 7th rounder. Before this signing, the Buccaneers top defensive ends were the likes of Jacquies Smith, William Gholston, Lawrence Sidbury, and Larry English so Johnson has a clear path to a starting role and should surpass the 502 snaps he played last season with a new career high.
However, it’s obviously a risky deal as Johnson is already going into his age 28 season and, even in the best season of his career last year, Johnson still only graded out slightly above average on Pro Football Focus, obviously playing well as a pass rusher in a situational role, but struggling against the run. The transition to being an every down player could be tough for him even if he doesn’t regress. The Buccaneers aren’t betting a ton of money as this deal is worth 3 million annually and doesn’t have any money guaranteed after the first year and the Buccaneers arguably need edge rushers more than any other team in the NFL, but I’m also not surprised the Lions, who also have a need at 4-3 defensive end, let him go.
Grade for Tampa Bay: B-
Grade for Detroit: B