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Calvin Johnson’s $21 million cap number ties Lions’ hands

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Yes, the Lions have receiver Calvin Johnson under contract for one more year.  Yes, they’d like to extend his contract.

But the reality is that they need to.

Johnson’s cap number for 2012, according to a source with knowledge of the contract, exceeds $21 million.  That figure comes from a $14 million base salary, a $4.5 million roster bonus due on March 14, and slightly more than $2.5 million in allocations from past bonuses payments.

A new contract could dramatically reduce the cap number, while also giving Johnson a significant chunk of money right now — and promises of even more money in future years.

Still, Johnson has all the leverage.  With $18.5 million due in 2012 and a franchise tender of $25.2 million for 2013 (based on 120 percent of his 2012 cap number), Johnson already is due to pocket more than $43.7 million over the next two seasons.

So how much guaranteed money on a multi-year deal will that justify?

Working against Johnson’s potential payday is the importance of having the cap space to keep and attract other talented players.  Calvin suffered through the days of 0-16, and he surely is enjoying the fact that the Lions are winning.  If he squeezes every last cent out of the Lions, they may have a hard time getting to the next level(s).

Even with a new deal for Johnson, the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, the Lions face challenges on several fronts.  They need to find ways to keep their impending free agents (like defensive end Cliff Avril), and they need to be able to chase players from other teams to upgrade the roster, especially in the secondary.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press joined PFT Live on Tuesday to discuss the struggles that success has brought to the franchise.  Among other things, he said that receiver Nate Burleson and defensive lineman Corey Williams could be cut as the Lions scramble to comply with the cap while also becoming even more competitive.

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53 Responses to “Calvin Johnson’s $21 million cap number ties Lions’ hands”
  1. jessethegreat says: Feb 14, 2012 6:25 PM

    Don’t do it Cal! You hold ALL the cards. You are the best receiver in the game, and you deserve QB money. Don’t negociate. If your play weren’t great, the Lions would have no problems cutting you. Now you owe it to the players union to hold them to their end of the contract you both signed. It’s a business, and you’re the one that’s gotta look out for yourself.. you know the Lions won’t.

  2. tommccrossin says: Feb 14, 2012 6:29 PM

    I’m sure Stafford’s number 1 pick contract from a couple years ago isn’t helping either

  3. cfrs15 says: Feb 14, 2012 6:31 PM

    They should just cut him and get him off their books. There are probably no other teams that would be interested in him anyway.

  4. dwntwnbadboy19 says: Feb 14, 2012 6:32 PM

    Think they should trade him to Tampa for our next 5 drafts, oh wait, no way Glaziers would pay that kind of money. I am sure CJ will work something out with them, but damn, 43 million bucks for seasons of football would be damn tempting.

  5. canetic says: Feb 14, 2012 6:36 PM

    worth every penny.

  6. dalucks says: Feb 14, 2012 6:49 PM

    Just pay Calvin Johnson. That general manager just has to do a better job of structuring other players contracts and the general manger has to draft well in the lower rounds to save some money plus coaches have to do a better job of developing talents. No one is feeling sorry for a lazy general manager.

  7. johnnycash19 says: Feb 14, 2012 6:50 PM

    I think the Lions will try to trade Corey Williams for either a draft pick or a decent LB/DB. The Lions have a lot of depth at DT with Suh, Fairley, Sammie Lee Hill and Andre Fluellen. As much as I appreciate what Corey has done, it may be time to cut ties with him to upgrade elsewhere.

    Nate is the one player I would be worried about losing, he may not be the greatest of WR’s but he is a great team leader (as is KVB) so losing him would hurt, but again that would purely be a business decision.

    Either way you look at it the Lions have a tough job ahead of them, it will be interesting to see Tom Lewand work his magic. Hopefully they can bring back one of their “big 2″ (Avril and Tulloch) while resigning other players like Deandre Levy and Sammie Hill.

  8. vikescry1 says: Feb 14, 2012 6:51 PM

    welcome to the world of winning, detroit….

  9. johnnycash19 says: Feb 14, 2012 6:52 PM

    dalucks says: Feb 14, 2012 6:49 PM
    No one is feeling sorry for a lazy general manager.

    ——-

    You do know it’s not Mayhews fault he was stuck with THREE top 2 picks in a span of 4 years right? That was done by the worst GM in all of sports.

    Mayhew has been anything but lazy since he took over.

  10. cali49er707 says: Feb 14, 2012 6:58 PM

    what a flat out BEAST CJ is, i hate say but the lions are gonna be dangerous next year.I just hope dey suck when playing us

  11. nineroutsider says: Feb 14, 2012 7:00 PM

    The Lions aren’t even that good to be having their hands tied by the cap, who else is signed to a phat deal besides Johnson? They better drop some fat otherwise they are going to lose players from last year’s team, not gain the pieces they need for 2012.

  12. trubroncfan07 says: Feb 14, 2012 7:02 PM

    Hold your ground CJ because I knew these owners were screwing the players in past CBA. The owners got the rookies to take basically a 40% pay cut so that the older players would get paid. Those older players will never see that money and now the rookies are making half of what they used to. Make them pay CJ!

  13. ahs2 says: Feb 14, 2012 7:03 PM

    Tom Lewand is one of the best money guys in the game and all involved want him to be a long-term Lion…everyone will be happy in the end.

  14. notthekiller says: Feb 14, 2012 7:12 PM

    tommccrossin says:Feb 14, 2012 6:29 PM

    I’m sure Stafford’s number 1 pick contract from a couple years ago isn’t helping either

    ———————————————————-

    Guy, the Lions had Matthew Stafford restructure his deal last year so they could go out, and get Tullock, Wright, and be able to trade up in last years draft for Mikel Leshoure. Stafford took a lump sum payment of front! Get your fact straight!!

  15. scoregasmic says: Feb 14, 2012 7:17 PM

    Calvin’s not the kind of player who’s in it for the money…he loves Detroit and he wants a super bowl, he’ll do everything he can to help out the lions. So will stafford.

  16. KIR says: Feb 14, 2012 7:21 PM

    This guy is single handily worth 14 points a game. Stafford just throws the ball up. QB money baby. Anything less and his agent is going to have problems in the future.

  17. 6thsense79 says: Feb 14, 2012 7:34 PM

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong but couldn’t Detroit have moved a substantial amount of their current superstar’s salary to 2010 when there wasn’t a cap?

  18. mike8016 says: Feb 14, 2012 7:43 PM

    This is what happens when you are terrible for so many Years.

  19. ray0414 says: Feb 14, 2012 8:13 PM

    suh, stafford, johnson all making big money. the salary cap being only 120million for an NFL team is absolutely stupid! this is hte most dangerous sport on earth. cap should be at least 150! CJ deserves 20million!! BUT, with the cap, if u pay him that your team will be held back and cant take the next step forward. so do u want to win or do u want to me stupid money?

  20. ray0414 says: Feb 14, 2012 8:16 PM

    and stafford does NOT just throw the ball up! if that were the case then CJ woulda had monster years before stafford got healthy. every once in while yes, but every qb does it.

  21. dewalt2990 says: Feb 14, 2012 8:26 PM

    Lets get to the point. If Calvin and Matthew keep this up, (no one can stop them) Megatron will no doubt be a hall of famer. Whats that worth? What is total domination worth to a football team?

  22. eyeh8goodell says: Feb 14, 2012 8:53 PM

    “Hold your ground CJ because I knew these owners were screwing the players in past CBA. The owners got the rookies to take basically a 40% pay cut so that the older players would get paid. Those older players will never see that money and now the rookies are making half of what they used to. Make them pay CJ!”

    That makes absolutely no sense. First of all, rookies don’t deserve monster deals as they’ve done nothing at the NFL level. More 1st rounders go bust than take a star turn. Secondly, if the rooks didn’t get the money, and the older players didn’t get the money……then where did it go? Teams still spent to the cap last year so somebody besides the rooks were getting paid.

  23. spcoltrane says: Feb 14, 2012 8:53 PM

    Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been watching football for over 35 years, and have been cheering for the Lions the whole time, through thick and thin.
    I was thrilled when the Lions drafted CJ; he may be the “Barry Sanders” of the current era (i.e., the most significant offensive weapon and the perennial Pro-Bowl player on the team).

    But, there’s something very wrong with the game when a single player on a 53 man roster accounts for 16% of the salary cap. Without other quality receivers, – Burleson, Pettigrew, Scheffler, Young – (yes, I know Pettigrew and Sheffler are tight ends) – and a bona fide running game, CJ is going to be double and triple teamed every play and hobbled if not rendered ineffective. Getting tangled up with 2, 3, or 4 defenders only exposes him to a greater risk of injury – the injury reports on him typically refer to some leg issues (strains, sprains, tender muscles); Greg Landry (then of the Saints) said quite publicly that he planned to go after CJ’s legs.
    The deep threat routes that make him so dangerous take time to develop – and Stafford needs protection from a solid line to get the 40 yard bombs to CJ.
    Despite the threat the Lions’ offence poses, the defence needs help. The second Green Bay game demonstrated that: 41 points by the Lions wasn’t enough to win the game.
    I really want to see CJ play in Honolulu Blue until he’s 40, and walk into Canton five years later wearing a fist full of Superbowl rings. But, as I think the Eagles’ meltdown this season shows, having a roster of great players doesn’t automatically lead to a championship or even the playoffs.

    As for Ray0414’s observation that football is the most dangerous sport on earth – agreed; but does any athlete “deserve” $20 million? Compared to the dangers others face on the job every day – cops, firefighters, soldiers, social workers, prison guards – I know who faces more risks every day.

    Lewand and Mayhew have fundamentally changed the dynamic of the Lions since taking over from Matt Millen. I trust they will be successful in negotiating the appropriate contracts with all the players necessary to welcome the Lombardi Trophy to Motown.

  24. nineroutsider says: Feb 14, 2012 9:01 PM

    Suh and Stafford need to rework their deals Lions fans, it’s about cap space and putting the best product on the field for you the fans…what’s with all of this “Don’t do it Calvin, get yours” garbage? No one is making the cap bigger for the Lions. They know the rules, make it work.

  25. skinsfantom says: Feb 14, 2012 9:08 PM

    CALVIN JOHNSON SUCKS. send him to washington, we’ll take him off your hands. we’ll give you…………………..um, let’s see …………. ummmm how about MOSS,BECK, AND a no. 3 yeah, YEAH THAT’S THE TICKET, a no. 3 yeah

  26. rmc1995 says: Feb 14, 2012 9:13 PM

    I suppose those of you who think Stafford just throws the ball up to CJ also think Montana only threw 5 yard passes to Rice.

  27. phillyphever says: Feb 14, 2012 9:17 PM

    dalucks says:
    Feb 14, 2012 6:49 PM

    Just pay Calvin Johnson. That general manager just has to do a better job of structuring other players contracts and the general manger has to draft well in the lower rounds to save some money plus coaches have to do a better job of developing talents. No one is feeling sorry for a lazy general manager.

    1) Calvin’s rookie deal was done by Millin, so you can thank him for this mess.

    2) Can someone get me the details on Fitzgerald’s contract? I got a feeling that’s exactly the kind of contract Johnson’s agent is looking for.

  28. lolb23 says: Feb 14, 2012 9:31 PM

    The Redskins were exactly 1 million OVER the cap when the signed Albert Haynesworth to a 100 million dollar deal. Trust me, there are ways to create cap space.

  29. commitment2excrement says: Feb 14, 2012 9:44 PM

    Lol the hand of Mike Millen strikes again!

  30. profootballwalk says: Feb 14, 2012 10:54 PM

    scoregasmic says:
    Feb 14, 2012 7:17 PM
    Calvin’s not the kind of player who’s in it for the money…he loves Detroit
    **********************************

    Now you’re being silly – NO ONE loves Detroit.

  31. rpiotr01 says: Feb 14, 2012 11:04 PM

    Yeah Calvin, stick it to the team, soak them for every dime and play for a loser! It’s all about YOU!

    /sarcasm

  32. PAGG STACK says: Feb 14, 2012 11:06 PM

    Roddy White thinks Calvin Johnson makes too much money.

  33. lionsdetroitcom says: Feb 14, 2012 11:25 PM

    Pay the man and worry about the rest later….

  34. lionsdetroitcom says: Feb 14, 2012 11:36 PM

    dalucks says: Feb 14, 2012 6:49 PM
    No one is feeling sorry for a lazy general manager.

    ——————————————————–

    First off, the team president handles contract structuring and secondly our GM is anything BUT lazy, where do you even get that IDIOCY from?

    Oh I know where you pulled that from, you’re sitting on it.

  35. cowboysfromdallas says: Feb 14, 2012 11:42 PM

    Calvin has to ask himself if he wants HIS payday or a chance for the TEAM to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

  36. jessethegreat says: Feb 14, 2012 11:53 PM

    scoregasmic says:
    Calvin’s not the kind of player who’s in it for the money…he loves Detroit and he wants a super bowl, he’ll do everything he can to help out the lions. So will stafford.
    —————————————————————-
    Dream on HOMER. If he’s about the money he will stay in Detriot. If he wants a ring, he’s leaving town as soon as his deal is over.

    Why did Barry Sanders quit? He knew Detriot would never win a ring. He wanted a ring and they wouldn’t allow him to persue one with a team with a chance at one.

  37. pitt4059 says: Feb 15, 2012 12:40 AM

    Corey Williams to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hampton isn’t coming back. You heard it here first.

  38. mjkelly77 says: Feb 15, 2012 1:31 AM

    The incompetent and ineffectual Mutt Millen comes back to bite the Lions in the a$$.

  39. descendency says: Feb 15, 2012 4:07 AM

    @jessethegreat

    By not signing a new contract, Calvin wastes his leverage. The best thing to do is force the Lions to over-pay him.

    He could easily leverage a huge contract with a massive guarantee and the Lions would be basically either forced to accept or to survive a season with massive cuts.

    The smart move for Calvin is to convert his 21 million cap space into an extra 10-15 million (guaranteed) on a new contract.

  40. kingjoe1 says: Feb 15, 2012 6:20 AM

    Wow! It is simply unimaginable that there is this strong support for this guy to get paid even more. He is going to make in excess of 40 million over the next two years and yet many folks here treat him like some up and coming folk hero that is going to stick it to the man.

    Much like the dopey folks who welcome big time screen actors into the Occupy camps, Johnson is not “one of us”, he is one of them. He is rich and powerful and is not inclined one bit pal around with you.
    [Trubronco, jessethegreat and so forth, you know who you are.]
    All players are in the 1% year to year.

    This deep division of wealth is becoming greater, not just with money but power not inspite of union-blind folks, but because of them.

    Guess who pays CJ’s huge salary? Not the owner, the fans. Wake up to reality.

  41. davidjcu says: Feb 15, 2012 7:57 AM

    This is much easier than people realize. All that needs to be done is add some clauses about having complete world domination.

    -Hail Megatron

  42. jpiro says: Feb 15, 2012 9:01 AM

    Send him to the Bears. We’ll trade you Sam Hurd and whatever he has in his trunk right now, so it’d probably break even.

  43. suhnami says: Feb 15, 2012 9:09 AM

    “cowboysfromdallas says: Feb 14, 2012 11:42 PM

    Calvin has to ask himself if he wants HIS payday or a chance for the TEAM to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.”

    ————————————-

    I think he’s interested in a Superbowl so you can cross Dallas off the list

  44. suhnami says: Feb 15, 2012 9:11 AM

    “rmc1995 says: Feb 14, 2012 9:13 PM

    I suppose those of you who think Stafford just throws the ball up to CJ also think Montana only threw 5 yard passes to Rice.”

    ——————————————

    I would also add….

    “How many 5,000 yard seasons did Joe Montana throw for? Just curious…”

  45. bigjdve says: Feb 15, 2012 9:24 AM

    @suhnami

    He didn’t have any 5000 yard seasons. However I would ask how many rings does Stafford have?

  46. lionsdetroitcom says: Feb 15, 2012 9:51 AM

    @ bigjdve

    Yeah, the kids never gonna get a ring at this ripe old age of 24! Time to retire….

    Whatever dude.

  47. rmc1995 says: Feb 15, 2012 10:07 AM

    @suhnami,
    Breaking it down even more, during Montana’s best passing season, a higher percentage of Montana’s yards went to Rice than the percentage of Stafford’s yards went to C J this season. Given that, one could argue that Stafford obviously uses other weapons on his offense, or really, Stafford doesn’t “just throw it up to Megatron” enough. Identifying your best receiver, having trust in the receiver and getting him the ball in anyway is what makes a great quarter back. It’s really a terrible argument for fools to say Stafford just throws it up.

  48. cwroses1983 says: Feb 15, 2012 10:18 AM

    they have to get calvin back. he is the reason for the success of the lions offense. and that is without an offensive line and without any running game what so ever. pay him bc he is the best player in football(physically gifted), besides brady. He opens up so many options for us, just imagine how good we could be with a running game added on. I would cut burleson bc he is not good at all, we could sign braylon for a one year deal worth 2.3 mill or something and we would be much more explosive, besides titus young is gonna be a stud. defense should do whatever they need to to keep tulloch, he is a monster. we could afford to say bye to williams as long as fairly can stay healthy. As for avril, it would be great to sign him back but wont be that big of loss is willie young and lawrence jackson continue to have success like they did this year. they need to free money up to get courtland finnegan, that way we say by to backus and draft a offenseive tackle in the first round, and lb in the second and db in the third. Mayhew isnt good either btw bc hows javid best working out, or derrick williams, pettigrew isnt worth a top 20 pick yet either, suh is well … suh.

  49. malekmj says: Feb 15, 2012 1:03 PM

    Its really quite simple. He will sign a 4 year deal.
    28 million signing bonus year one. That means his cap will be 7 million next year and save 15 million on the cap. year two he will get a 21 million roster bonus. His cap will be 14 million. Stafford will sign a long term deal and his cap will come down 10-15 million for 2013. In 2014 Calvin will sign a second extension for 8 years like larry and his cap number will come down AGAIN. so for 2014 Stafford and Calvin cap numbers will be 20 million COMBINED. 2015 will still be good as well. This means we have 4 years of GREAT cap situations and that doesn’t even take into account KVB, C WIL, And N B’s contracts leaving the team. Suh will probably resign in 2014 as well to save even more space. You heard it here first….the Lions are in a SWEET position to make a 4-5 year offer to a stud corner like brandon car that will pay him 8-9 million a year and still have room for some more play.

  50. skrappie32 says: Feb 15, 2012 1:27 PM

    Im sure CJ is going to restucture his deal to follow suit with Stafford and KVB did last year with there contracts to be able to become a better team.
    If he restructures his deal the lions will be fine because Jeff Backas contract will free up roughly about 11 million and with the new rookie pay scale in place draft an OT with the fist round pick which will be at 23 and not 3 they free up a lot of money right there.
    I agree with the guy that said get rid of Nate he is way and i mean way over payed for what he produces on the feild what was that a 24 million dallor cantract he’s not worth that we can get a better WR for less money.
    I am also just throwing this out there and I know some of you are not going to like it but we could trade Shaun Hill and help or selfs out a little bit also because right now Hill still has some value in another year or two that wont be the case. I have enough faith that Staton can get us a win or two if Safford goes down with a concussion or something and is out a few games.

  51. klunge says: Feb 15, 2012 2:53 PM

    trubroncfan07 says:
    Feb 14, 2012 7:02 PM
    Hold your ground CJ because I knew these owners were screwing the players in past CBA. The owners got the rookies to take basically a 40% pay cut so that the older players would get paid. Those older players will never see that money and now the rookies are making half of what they used to. Make them pay CJ!
    ———————————————-
    Ignorance at it’s worst, or possibly it’s finest depending on your viewpoint. Players screwed in the last CBA??? Players didn’t seem to think so, which is why their president said “We got a great deal!” and they were willing to just continue playing under that deal’s provisions until whenever a new CBA was bargained.
    Second, every year the rookie contracts inflated even higher despite not even taking the field yet. A #1 pick would account for 10% of his teams salary whether he was a bust or not.
    Third, pretty sure under the new CBA the salary FLOOR will be 90% of the cap starting next year. Since there is a fixed rookie salary pool, that means the money will have to be given to vets.

    Better to just not talk than not know what you are talking about, man.

  52. suhnami says: Feb 15, 2012 2:55 PM

    bigjdve says: Feb 15, 2012 9:24 AM

    @suhnami

    He didn’t have any 5000 yard seasons. However I would ask how many rings does Stafford have?

    ——————————————–

    1 full season versus 16 NFL seasons…how many did Montana win through his first full season?? that would be 0

  53. iatse700 says: Feb 15, 2012 6:51 PM

    Ask Nate, KVB and Corey Williams to take a paycut or trade/release them. Resign Avril, Tulloch, Backus, Levy, Sammie Hill and Wright.

    Continue with the plan of drafting the best players available. Hopefully that coincides with a few pressing needs in the back seven of the defense or upgrades to the O-line.

    I’m praying that Best and Leshoure can return healthy next year.

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