Ten-year veteran defensive end Lance Johnstone, one of the NFL's best situational pass rushers over the course of his career and certainly one of the top players remaining in the unrestricted free-agent market, on Wednesday reached a contract agreement with the Oakland Raiders, ESPN.com has learned.
The deal, for two years, returns Johnstone to the franchise with which he originally began his NFL career, as a second-round choice in the 1996 draft. Financial details were not immediately available.
Johnstone, 32, played five seasons with the Raiders (1996-2000) and then signed with the Minnesota Vikings, for whom he played five years (2001-05). Minnesota had made what was believed to be a one-year offer in an effort to retain Johnstone, and the veteran pass rusher also generated interest from several other clubs as well.
Securing a proven pass-rusher like Johnstone, who posted 7½ sacks in 2005, should provide the Raiders some intriguing possibilities on third down. Oakland already boasts the 2005 league sack champion in right end Derrick Burgess, who had 16 quarterback takedowns last season, and will now be able to bring even more pressure off the edge.
The combination of Burgess and Johnstone attacking the pocket from opposite sides on third down figures to enhance the performance of both veteran ends. After Burgess, the Raiders didn't have any other defenders in 2005 with more than five sacks and no ends with more than two sacks.
In his 10 seasons in the league, Johnstone has registered 10 or more sacks four times, including 10 sacks in 2003 and 11 in 2004. The former Temple standout has posted five or more sacks in seven seasons. There has been no discernable dropoff in Johnstone's level of play or, more important, in his quickness, which is his forte.
Johnstone has appeared in 155 games, missing just five contests during his NFL tenure, and he has 380 tackles, 21 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.