The exact structure of the deal is still unclear, but restricted free agent George Johnson's offer sheet with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is worth $9 million over three years, according to Mike Garafolo. This would give Johnson an average of $3 million per year, which is a pretty big raise from the $1.542 million his original-round tender with the Detroit Lions would have paid him.
Johnson officially signed his offer sheet with the Buccaneers on Wednesday, giving the Lions until Monday to think about whether they want to match it and retain him or decline to match it and let him walk. Since the Lions gave Johnson an original-round tender and he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent, no compensation will be coming their way if they decline to match the Buccaneers' offer sheet.
Considering the Lions didn't value Johnson enough to put a second-round tender on him, which would have cost $2.356 million, I have a tough time believing they will match this offer. The structure of this deal could play a big factor in their decision-making process, but if the Lions didn't think Johnson was worth $2.356 million this year, I can't imagine they will match a deal that gives him an average of $3 million a season. (Case in point: Willie Young got a deal like that from the Chicago Bears last offseason, and the Lions didn't seem to have any interest in paying him that much money.)
At the end of the day, it really comes down to whether the Lions value Johnson enough to match this deal. Their hands could be tied if this contract is structured to give Johnson a big cap hit in 2015, but from a value standpoint, is Johnson going to be worth an average of $3 million a season going forward? Considering he had 6.0 sacks last year, an argument could definitely be made in favor of matching this deal. On the flip side, though, Johnson entered the NFL in 2010 (as a member of the Buccaneers) and didn't have a single career sack before he got to Detroit. Perhaps the system had more to do with his success than anything, and perhaps he will just turn out to be a one-year wonder.
Personally, I don't think I would match this deal. The Lions already have Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones, Darryl Tapp, Devin Taylor, Larry Webster and Phillip Hunt at defensive end, and I can't imagine this deal was structured in a very cap-friendly way for the Lions in 2015. Johnson deserves a lot of credit for his outstanding 2014 season, but let's not forget that he was nothing more than a camp body when he joined the Lions. There's no guarantee another player like Johnson will come out of nowhere this year, of course, but I'm pretty confident in defensive line coaches Jim Washburn and Kris Kocurek when it comes to developing pass rushers in Teryl Austin's system. In other words, I just think there's more value in using that money on other, more pressing needs.
Of course, if it were up to me, Johnson would have simply gotten a second-round tender and no other teams would have likely pursued him in the first place. But that's not something the Lions can go back and change, so now they're faced with this decision about matching Johnson's offer or letting him walk for nothing. What do you think they should do?