Technically, NFL teams aren’t allowed to reach an agreement on a contract with an unrestricted free agent until unrestricted free agency officially opens today at 4 p.m. Eastern. In reality, teams and agents have been negotiating for the last three days, and in some cases the agreements are already done.
In the case of the Buccaneers and free agent defensive end Michael Johnson, Josina Anderson of ESPN reports that they’ve already agreed to a five-year, $43.75 million deal, with $24 million guaranteed. The deal can’t be announced until free agency officially opens in five hours, but that doesn’t stop the two sides from having an understanding.
If the Bucs have already come to an agreement with a free agent, they’ve technically broken the rules. But the rules just aren’t realistic. The whole point of team executives and agents talking right now is to try to reach an agreement on a contract.
In this case, the Bucs and Johnson have apparently reached an agreement a little early. Johnson should be a good fit in Lovie Smith’s defense, even if Smith still has to wait five more hours before he can officially say so.