George Johnson Dispute Another Martin Mayhew Debacle


To say the Detroit Lions offseason has been rough is an understatement. Even restricted free agency, something designed to help teams retain free agents, seems difficult for the Lions to take advantage of. That is the case for George Johnson, the Lions restricted free agent defensive end, who just send a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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The deal with Tampa Bay is for $9 million dollars over three years, an average of 3 million per year.  The Lions offered Johnson an original-round tender for $1.5 million that gave them the right to match any other offer the defensive end was able to secure on the market. For an original-round tender the Lions would receive no compensation. Now the Lions are officially disputing that agreement claiming Tampa inserted a “poison pill” in the offer that would make it impossible for the Lions to match.

On the surface this seems like a no brainer.  The Lions made an offer and Johnson was able to convince another team with a ton of cap space to double the offer.  If the Lions don’t think he is worth that amount then let him go. Why dispute it?

The answer may be in a small paragraph at the end of a piece by beat writer Tim Twentyman.  The Lions may have been able to retain Johnson or receive a second round pick as compensation if he left for another team If they made him the right offer.

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"The Lions gave Johnson an original-round tender worth $1.542 million last month, which came with the right to match any offer Johnson might receive from other teams, but offered no compensation to the Lions if he were to ultimately sign elsewhere.For an additional $814,000, the Lions could have placed a second-round tender offer on Johnson for a total cost of $2.356 million. If a team would have signed Johnson at that point the Lions could have matched the offer or received a second-round pick from the signing team as compensation for him leaving."

Just thinking out loud here but wouldn’t it be worth the extra $814,000 to secure the services of an effective defensive linemen in a year when your line was decimated by free agency? Obviously Martin Mayhew and the Lions didn’t think so and as a result are on the verge of losing a guy who racked up six sacks the year before.  Maybe the prospect of surrendering a second round pick would have been enough to deter Tampa from making an offer in the first place.

Once again Martin Mayhew and the Lions are scrambling to fix a mistake created by a poor personnel decision. And once again this poor decision is costing the team dearly. Not signing or trading Ndamukong Suh when they had an opportunity has already cost the Lions two draft picks (4th and 5th) in the Haloti Gnata trade.  The failure of the Lions front office to think ahead and pick up the team option on Nick Fairley also contributed to the need make a trade.

Now the Lions are desperately trying again to fix a mistake by disputing an offer sheet made to one of their restricted free agents.  A situation that could have been completely avoid with a little thought and even less money.

Fans should take the George Johnson error and pile it on top of the other errors Mayhew and Lewand have made this offseason.  Light that heap on fire and it may create enough flames to finally put Mayhew on the hot seat.

Update 4/15/2015

George Johnson was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an effort to avoid dispute over the $9 million offer sheet.

The trade guarantees the Lions get some compensation after failing to put a second-round tender on Johnson at the start of free agency.  That said the value isn’t much.  The Lions don’t gain a pick but instead swap a seventh for a fifth.  Hopefully the Lions can turn that pick into a defensive end that can be as production as Johnson was in defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s system.

Next: The Illusion Of The NFL Draft