It's been a wild couple of weeks for restricted free agent George Johnson. After receiving an original-round tender from the Detroit Lions last month, Johnson visited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the beginning of April. Five days after his visit, he signed an offer sheet with the Buccaneers, and nearly a week later, the Lions disputed said offer sheet. They wanted clarification on what they had to actually match in the offer sheet, but that's a moot point now, as the Lions have simply traded him to the Buccaneers.
As first reported by Rick Stroud, the Lions and Buccaneers will swap late-round draft picks in exchange for Johnson. We don't know which picks specifically are being swapped, but to make this trade happen, the Lions dropped their request for an independent arbitrator to review the offer sheet, according to ESPN.
As noted by Dave Birkett, teams aren't allowed to accept draft picks or any other compensation in order to not match an offer sheet. As a result, this is likely the exact process for how this trade will officially go down:
I imagine when it's all done, the Lions will have to withdraw their grievance, match Johnson's contract & trade him to Tampa to be official— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) April 15, 2015
The CBA allows trades so long as the player & NFLPA approve, and Johnson certainly would in this case— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) April 15, 2015
One other note from Birkett is that Johnson's offer sheet with the Bucs did not include a signing bonus, so the Lions will not have any dead money if they match the deal and then trade Johnson to Tampa Bay. It will be a clean break for them, and they will actually end up gaining cap space since the original-round tender worth $1.542 million will come off the books.
I certainly can't say that I expected this situation to be resolved by a trade, but kudos to the Lions for getting something in exchange for Johnson. I still think it was a mistake to not just give him a second-round tender in the first place, but clearly they didn't believe he was worth $2.356 million. And clearly they didn't think he was worth $9 million over three years, which is what Tampa Bay offered him. However, instead of simply not matching the offer sheet, the Lions disputed it, and now they have gotten a swap of draft picks out of this trade. This won't dramatically alter their draft outlook or anything, but it's better than nothing.
As for where the Lions go from here at defensive end, it's officially time for Larry Webster to step it up. He showed some promise as a rookie in the preseason last year, but he was unable to crack the regular-season rotation. Now, though, with Johnson headed to Tampa Bay, Webster should have a big opportunity to become a member of the Lions' rotation at defensive end.