After posting 6.0 sacks for the Detroit Lions three years ago, can this NFL one-year wonder recapture that magic after re-signing with the team on Wednesday?
The term one hit wonder is often reserved for musical artists who topped the billboard charts with a single song never to be heard of again. “Who Let the Dogs Out?” by the Baha Men, Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice Baby” and “Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega are certainly solid examples.
In the NFL’s version, those players who shine like Pro Bowlers for a single season and then return to obscurity are known as one “year” wonders. And the Detroit Lions just re-signed one of those one year wonders to their roster. But both the team and the player are surely hoping he can lose that moniker very soon.
On Wednesday, the Lions signed free agent defensive end George Johnson to the team. In order to make room for their former pass rusher on the active roster, Detroit elected to waive rookie defensive end Alex Barrett.
Johnson was an undrafted rookie free agent out of Rutgers in 2010. In his senior season, he recorded 44 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble and a defensive touchdown in 13 games.
Signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in December of 2010, Johnson was primarily a practice squad member during his time in Florida. He spent his first four seasons in the NFL with the Bucs and the Minnesota Vikings, recording a total of seven tackles in nine game appearances within that span.
In 2014, Johnson signed with the Lions and had a breakout season. The 26-year old defender posted 29 total tackles and 6.0 sacks as a backup, playing only 491 defensive snaps (46.99%). It was the third highest sack total on the team that year.
The following season, Johnson was a restricted free agent. Despite his success, the Lions gave him the lowest possible tender at one-year, $1.5 million. The Buccaneers offered Johnson a three-year, $9 million deal to return to Tampa Bay. And after a dispute over the offer, the Lions’ ultimately elected to trade Johnson and a seventh round pick to the Bucs for a fifth round selection in 2015.
Despite starting games for the first time in his six-year career, Johnson’s production actually dropped off in his first season back with the Buccaneers, recording 23 tackles, two forced fumbles and zero sacks in 11 games in 2015.
Last year, Johnson fractured his hip during practice, ending his season before it even started. After failing to record a single sack in two years, Tampa Bay released the veteran defensive end earlier this month.
The now 29-year old one-year wonder returns to the team he’s had the most success with. And Johnson will do so with the same defensive coordinator he had in 2014, Teryl Austin.
Will George Johnson lose the label of one-year wonder this season by recapturing the magic he had three years ago? He’ll certainly have an opportunity to do so in Detroit, the very place his career first took off.