TAMPA — NFL teams can officially sign unrestricted free agents starting today at 4 p.m. as a new league year begins, but the Bucs already had a big swing — and miss — on Tuesday.
The Bucs brought in former Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson for a visit, wooing the 29-year-old as they seek the dominant outside pass-rusher they've lacked. Johnson, who averaged 101/2 sacks a season from 2010-14 but was limited by a hamstring injury last year, had been cut by Carolina in a salary-cap move as he was due to make $11 million this year.
"2mor u will know my future!!! It's going to be epic," Johnson wrote cryptically on Twitter, giving hope to Bucs fans.
By 7:30 p.m., however, multiple reports had Johnson returning to Carolina, and ESPN reported that he chose a one-year, $3 million offer when other teams (he visited the Giants and Bucs) had offered $6 million a year.
The big question, still, for the Bucs is whether they re-sign running back Doug Martin, who was second in the NFL in rushing. Both sides have expressed an interest in him staying in Tampa, but the Bucs haven't offered enough to keep him from seeking offers elsewhere.
Tandy signs: The Bucs re-signed safety Keith Tandy to a two-year contract and released linebacker Bruce Carter a year into his four-year deal.
Keeping Tandy, an unrestricted free agent, is a boost on defense and on special teams. Tandy, 27, reset his career high with 42 total tackles in 2015, and he has four interceptions in four seasons.
Carter, 28, was signed to start at middle linebacker but lost that job in training camp to rookie Kwon Alexander. He started three games after Alexander was suspended, but his 47 total tackles were his fewest since his rookie year; after leading all NFL linebackers with five interceptions in 2014, he had none in 2015. The Bucs take no salary-cap hit — he had a roster bonus of $750,000 due this week had he not been cut.
This and that: Restricted free agent receiver Russell Shepard got a $1.6 million, one-year tender that lets the Bucs match any offer. Shepard, 27, has been a leader in kick coverage but played sparingly on offense in three seasons. … The Bucs did not offer a tender to defensive end Olatunji Fatinikun, an exclusive-rights free agent who had 12 tackles in 12 games with the Bucs but is recovering from ACL surgery. Fatinikun, 24, could sign with the team later this year.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.