Lions trade George Johnson to Bucs

After disputing an offer sheet that defensive end George Johnson, a restricted free agent, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Detroit Lions have decided to trade Johnson to the Bucs.

The Lions confirmed Wednesday that the teams are swapping late-round draft picks this year, with Detroit sending a seventh-round selection to Tampa Bay (No. 231 overall) for the Buccaneers’ fifth-rounder (No. 168).

 Johnson, 27, emerged in his first year with the Lions to become a key part of their defensive-line rotation while finishing with six sacks in 2014.

"Detroit will always hold a special place in my heart," Johnson said in a message posted on Twitter. "You guys gave me a chance when no one was willing; for that I’m grateful."             

The Buccaneers signed Johnson last week to a three-year, $9-million deal, which the Lions had the option of matching to keep Johnson.

The Lions confirmed Monday that they were disputing some details of the offer sheet signed by Johnson. An independent arbitrator would have ruled on the case, but the teams instead agreed to the trade.

The loss of Johnson means that Devin Taylor, Darryl Tapp and Larry Webster will compete for more playing time behind starting defensive ends Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah and Jason Jones.