Ex-Steelers Lineman Caps ‘Unusual Week’ by Signing with Buccaneers: Report

James Washington with Fred Johnson

Frederick Breedon/Getty Images James Washington of the Pittsburgh Steelers is congratulated by teammate Fred Johnson after a touchdown reception against the Tennessee Titans on August 25, 2019.

As recently as earlier this week, ex-Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Fred Johnson expected to spend the 2022 season reprising his role as one of Joe Burrow’s protectors, having been part of Cincy’s offensive line room since 2019. But in the wake of signing La’el Collins, the Bengals elected to waive him, doing so almost immediately after he inked his one-year tender as a restricted free agent. It was the defining moment of what Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk described as an “unusual week” for the former University of Florida product.

Now it appears that Johnson has landed a gig as good as — or better — than the one he had in Cincinnati. According to ESPN senior NFL insider Adam Schefter, Johnson is signing a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he’ll have the opportunity to chase a Super Bowl ring with Tom Brady & Co.

Financial terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed. Johnson had been scheduled to earn $2.433 million under the terms of the one-year contract he signed with the Bengals, as per overthecap.com. In 2021, he earned a salary of $850,000.

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Fred Johnson Started His NFL Career in Pittsburgh

Johnson, who will turn 25 on June 5, came into the NFL with the Steelers in 2019, and was described as “one of the Steelers’ most consistent and best young offensive linemen at Saint Vincent during training camp,” according to Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“He’s a very athletic guy and with size, who moves well and has got big long arms, locks guys out,” offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett told Adamski. “But he’s still a baby. He’s got a long way to go. He’s a guy we need to continue to develop, a young guy we are hoping to spend a little extra time with if needed. He’s done great in the classroom, he’s bought in; I think he’s just going to continue to develop. He’s one of the young guys we’re excited about.”

Yet little more than two months later, the Steelers waived him (along with linebacker Jayrone Elliott) to make room for fullback Trey Edmunds and quarterback Paxton Lynch. The Bengals claimed him and kept him through the remainder of his rookie year and on through two more seasons.

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Johnson Earned an 81.0 Grade From PFF in 2021

The 6-foot-7, 326-pounder joins the Buccaneers with 23 games of NFL experience under his belt, according to Pro Football Reference. That includes eight starts, six of which came during the 2020 season. In 2021, Johnson received an 81.0 grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF), generated from the combination of an 83.6 run blocking grade and 61.3 pass blocking grade across 90 offensive snaps.

Johnson is typically listed as a guard, but has also started games at offensive tackle. In fact, during his first full season with the Bengals he started a game against the Steelers at left tackle.

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