Lions seem to want cap space more than they want Megatron

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If you were the new G.M. of a team coming off a 7-9 season, which would you rather have: A 30-year-old wide receiver who’s still good but no longer great, or an extra $16 million in salary cap space over the next two years?

New Lions G.M. Bob Quinn seems to be answering that question by saying he’d rather have the cap space. Although Quinn is avoiding saying anything about the possible retirement of Calvin Johnson, that in and of itself speaks volumes: Quinn’s silence strongly suggests that he would prefer that Johnson retire so that the Lions will get the cap space, but he doesn’t want to say so publicly because he doesn’t want to alienate Lions fans who love Megatron.

If Johnson plays for the Lions this year, he’ll count $24 million against their cap this year, and if he retired after 2016 he’d count $4.9 million in dead money against their cap in 2017. If he retires now, he’ll count $12.9 million in dead money against their cap in 2016, and then he’ll be off their books for good.

Not everyone seems to grasp that. Former Lions receiver Nate Burleson, a close friend of Johnson’s who is now an NFL Network analyst, ripped Quinn for not reaching out to Johnson and asking him to come back for the 2016 season.

“Calvin knows how we feel,” Burleson said. “I think there needs to be somebody that’s making decisions to actively tell him and actively tell him over and over and remind him why it’s important to come put a Detroit Lions jersey on.”

The problem is that the “somebody that’s making decisions” in Detroit is Quinn. And Quinn would rather get the $11.1 million in cap savings this year that would come from Johnson retiring. That’s completely understandable for a new G.M. in a new place who thinks he has a rebuilding project ahead of him.

So while Johnson is the best player to put on a Lions uniform in the 21st Century, that doesn’t mean the Lions want him in 2016. They’d rather give him a handshake, thank him for a job well done, and let him walk into retirement while they focus on building the team with younger, cheaper players.

91 responses to “Lions seem to want cap space more than they want Megatron

  1. tvguy22 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:30 AM

    How quickly will he un-retire and sign with the Patriots?
    *************************************

    You can’t un-retire and just sign with anyone unless the incumbent team releases your rights.

  2. I hope he sticks around, would like to see him carry on elsewhere. If nothing else than because he seems like a decent guy compared to most other NFL players. Of course he’s made a lot of money and if he can retire with his health… more power to him!

  3. greg3117 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:34 AM
    tvguy22 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:30 AM

    How quickly will he un-retire and sign with the Patriots?
    *************************************

    You can’t un-retire and just sign with anyone unless the incumbent team releases your rights.
    ****************************

    Also he might have a sense of honesty and not care to sign with a cheating team.

  4. tvguy22 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:30 AM
    How quickly will he un-retire and sign with the Patriots?
    ____________________

    If Johnson retires and ‘un-retires’ the Lions would retain his rights. They would have to cut or trade him in order for him to sign elsewhere. Not saying that playing elsewhere is his goal but if it is all Johnson needs to do is sit tight and force Quinn to pay him or cut him.

  5. What he’d probably really prefer is CJohnson deciding he wants to play after all, and Quinn getting something for his rights. Quinn, Johnson, and even the most hardcore Lions fan must have realized he wasn’t gonna see next year’s money. Johnson has already gotten his 53 guaranteed money, minus the 3+ mil bonus he’ll have to pay back. CJohnson has made about 100 mil in his career, he can pick and choose where he wants to go, probably with Quinn’s blessing. As for the Patriots; forget about it. Never happen.

  6. He was a very expensive decoy for several games last year. His cap hit is simply ridiculous for a WR in a salary cap world.

    He is doing the team a huge favor by retiring now.

  7. He’s class, so I don’t see him forcing the Lions to cut him. But I wouldn’t do them any favors by retiring a portion by the signing bonus.

  8. No, no, no. This article is WRONG.

    Calvin said he was retiring. The Lions asked him to think about it, i.e. reconsider his decision to retire.

    If the Lions’ FO keeps using the media to tell Calvin how much they want him back, it might rub Calvin the wrong way. He knows they want him back. The Lions don’t need to apply any more public pressure than there already is.

  9. that’s funny…do the NE Cheaters have an extra $10-15mil in cap money lying around for a firmly no. 1.5 WR who will almost certainly be unavailable for part of 16 games?

    ooo, i really hope they do, come to think of it;

    CJ would be doing the Lions an indirect favour and the rest of the league, in particular the AFC, a specific favour if he plays just long enough to destroy NE’s cap…

  10. They’d rather give him a handshake, thank him for a job well done, and let him walk into retirement while they focus on building the team with younger, cheaper players.
    ————
    Yup. Sounds like corporate America.
    To Nate….You were a vet in this league so you should know better…..The NFL is the most ruthless bottom line sports league around. Whenever a team does something and you’re not sure why follow the money and you’ll likely find your answer.

  11. Basically his options are to play, retire leaving all that money on the table, or rework his deal to facilitate at trade to a contender. There is really not much else that can happen…

  12. I cant help but think of when everyone thought Randy Moss had lost a step (or 3-4) in Oakland, and then all of a sudden was back to form in NE.

    I honestly dint know if I think Megatron has lost a step, he was just injured, or needs a change of atmosphere. I hope its one of the latter two, bc even though I’m no Lions fan I think he is an incredible player. I’d like to see him continue to be one of the best WRs out there

  13. greg3117 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:34 AM
    tvguy22 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:30 AM

    How quickly will he un-retire and sign with the Patriots?
    *************************************

    You can’t un-retire and just sign with anyone unless the incumbent team releases your rights
    ——

    Correct you are Greg. What he should do is force the Lions’ hand and get cut….that way he keeps the rest of his bonus and is free to sign elsewhere if he changes his mind.

  14. Let’s not get carried away here just yet…..even though Quinn supposedly hasn’t talked to CJ, it’s still early. The season ended just 4 weeks ago. I think Quinn’s biggest decision so far, keeping Caldwell and Jim Bob in place, has at least provided Calvin an incentive to return; knowing that they’ll have the same system in place that provides some continuity.

    I like Nate Burleson but as an analyst part of his job is to perhaps stir up debate and controversy. I think most Lions and NFL fans are hopeful that Megatron still has some football left in him. We’ll find out soon enough.

  15. If he retires now, he’ll owe the Lions money from his signing bonus. But if he waits till start of free agency then he’s off the hook for that money and the Lions have to decide to cut him or not. Considering it’s a 24 million cap hit, he gone! And then he’ll be free to do whatever he wants.

  16. As a Lions fan I’m with the Lions management on this one.

    Megatron is a great play and is among the best wide receivers in the league, but he’s not worth 24 million a year.

    Now that said, cutting Megatron would only save 11 million this year by cutting him, so it would be a mistake to cut him.

    So if Megatron does retire, I’ll support the decision and hope the Lions don’t misuse the money they save (given it’s the Lions, they probably will).

    If he doesn’t, I’ll continue to support him and Stafford, my two favourite Lions.

  17. Here is food for thought. The Panthers are in the Super Bowl and who do they have at Wide Receiver? You can get to the big game without a stud at Wide Receiver. New England seems to do it every year. My opinion, let him walk and use the money elsewhere. Of course, it’s how you use that money, that really matters.

  18. He’s going to force their hand – make the Lions cut him first. Then he’ll ‘retire’. Then the Lions have no claim to him. Then Megatron can ‘unretire’ and pick where he plays next and the Lions look like the bad guy

  19. Bob Quinn might just be willing to release Johnson’s rights. It would give huge salary cap relief to the Lions and potentially make Johnson available to Quinn’s former employer.

  20. “or an extra $16 million in salary cap space over the next two years?”

    The author of this article either doesn’t understand math or doesn’t know how much Megatron makes.

    If they cut him today, it would save them 11.1 million next year and 21.4 million next year for a total savings of 31.5 over the next two years.

    If they cut him after next season, it would save them 16.5 million next year (and 0 this year obviously)

    In both cases, it would save them more then 16 million dollars.

  21. I would rather take Calvin than the 11 million extra cap space this year. Cap space doesn’t win games, players do.

    5 million in dead money for 2017 is pocket change.

  22. Everyone talking about unretiring and finding a new team…this dude is doneski. He went from a 28 yr old monster to a 36 yr old 2nd option with height. Not his fault. Took a LOT of shots. That’s what happens when you’re the ONLY option on a team for a decade.

    As a Giants’ fan, it’s my fear for Odell. That and the fact we’re garbage right now is one of the reasons why I wouldn’t be opposed to trading Odell for a rebuild if some desperate owner (helllllo Kroenke – don’t you need a marquee name in L.A.??) comes calling.

  23. jag1959 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:39 AM
    tvguy22 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:30 AM
    How quickly will he un-retire and sign with the Patriots?
    ____________________

    If Johnson retires and ‘un-retires’ the Lions would retain his rights. They would have to cut or trade him in order for him to sign elsewhere. Not saying that playing elsewhere is his goal but if it is all Johnson needs to do is sit tight and force Quinn to pay him or cut him.
    _______________________________________

    patriots don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else. Goodell /Kraft would get it done one way or another.

  24. He should force them to cut him so he doesn’t have to pay back any prorated signing bonus money and so he can sign any where he wants should he change his mind. (They can always have some fluff ‘retirement ceremony’ if they want.)

    If the Lions don’t like it, tough luck! They signed him to this contract knowing this day would come (re. salary and cap hit).

    This is the part of the game where it’s a business!!!

  25. justintuckrule says:
    Everyone talking about unretiring and finding a new team…this dude is doneski. He went from a 28 yr old monster to a 36 yr old 2nd option with height.

    ———————————————————

    He is only 30 yrs old!!

    Google/rotoworld is a wonderful thing.
    Try it sometime!

  26. .
    It’s highly unlikely that Quinn will stray too far from the Patriots model since it’s all he knows. The Patriots have never been big spenders when it comes to WRs or RBs. They tend to invest in their offensive and defensive lines with the bulk of their cap dollars.

    24 million dollars can buy you a few starters and lots of depth.
    .

  27. What a straw grasp inferring anything from silence in Alien Park.

    The Lions are silent about everything and have been for years. I’m sure the Lions would like nothing more than for Calvin to say he feels great and ready to rock for next season

  28. “Buffalo Bills on line 1, they need another piece for their upcoming championship season.”

    Bills and championship in the same sentence, there’s an oxymoron for you lolz

  29. I can’t help but wonder if he’s pulling a Carson Palmer and using the retirement angle to leave the team. People are ready to put him out to pasture, but are severely underestimating him.

  30. mrjdon – I know he’s 30 smart guy. Read deeper. He looks 36. Ahmad Bradshaw is 29. Do you think his body is of a 29 yr old? wow.

  31. It’s funny how these really great athletes, RB’s and WR’s, rarely take their team to the promised land. Look how many playoff wins both Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson have combined for.
    I have really enjoyed watching Calvin play in the NFL. Great guy all around.
    Sorry to mention that child beating fumbler in the same post.

  32. Did anyone consider that the answer to the question “why can’t the Lions get the ball to Calvin” that everyone was asking last year is “Calvin is not getting open.”. This is not like Barry Sanders retiring in his prime.

  33. The Lions don’t have a “rebuilding project”. After Jim Bob Cooter took over, they went 6-2 (including the Hail Mary loss to the Packers). The offense was clearly rejuvenated and Stafford had a 110.1 passer rating in 8 games after the BYE week. That’s a team that needs a couple tweaks, no a full blown rebuild. They had a good thing going with Cooter.

    Signed, a Bengals fan

  34. Calvin Johnson said that 2015 was his last year. When you think about the sprained ankles, the broken fingers, and all the pain he plays through, why not just retire? He’s probably been paid $100 million over his career.

  35. “…remind him why it’s important to come put a Detroit Lions jersey on.”
    ——
    Winner of the most hilarious line of the day award!

  36. He will never un-retire and sign with the Patriots because… well, he’s under contract

    ____

    True, but the article also says the Lions don’t want his contract. So, if he wants to play they either have to pay him or release him. I’d think they’d release to save cap room.

  37. Everyone knows that the Lions own his rights if retires and then un-retires. Everyone is well aware of that. If Johnson DID want to play next year and not for the Lions, he could just announce his retirement, not officially retire, and force the Lions to cut him. This is what Tony Gonzales did with the Falcons. This is the scenario where Johnson ends up on another team. I dont know why it’s so hard for people to understand or mention that.

  38. He was a pleasure to watch, other than two times a year. You’ve got to wonder if the cap space is really that big of a deal to the Lions now anyhow with Suh gone. And it did my heart good to see Nate Burleson once again yammering on about Lions stuff.

  39. This is a GOOD business decision for the TEAM.

    Why does everyone think that the Lions must bite the bullet for CJ? He is ONE player, and he is in decline.

    It makes sense for the Lions to ask him to retire, or trade him for whatever they can get.

  40. If someone else has to REMIND him, or anyone else for that fact, why it’s important to put the team colors on and go out represent that city….. then Calvin Johnson or whomever else is in a similar spot is making the right choice by retiring.

    Players who have the desire to play, don’t need to be reminded why.

  41. jchipwood says:
    Feb 2, 2016 11:17 AM
    patriots don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else. Goodell /Kraft would get it done one way or another.
    —————————

    Keep the tin foil hat handy, the Pats thought probing satellite will be overhead any moment now

  42. All of these comments don’t make sense. The man is 30 yr old his body has taken a beating over the last 10yrs. Has his stats been declining well yeah most nfl players would after having 1900 receiving yards in one season kind of tough to top that. Also take in to consideration when leaving Georgia Tech early he made a promise to his mother that he would not forget about graduating(As a engineer). Maybe just maybe football is not the only thing he wants to do. He’s made his money holds several records for Detroit and the NFL. maybe watch espns e60 with him and you may understand but then again reading your comments you probably won’t.

  43. I think the Lions have accepted him at his word, embraced the change and are now planning forward. It’s what organizations do when they have personnel changes.

    What’s really disturbing is that this is a post about a retiring Detroit Lions player. How are the Patriots continuing to enter the conversation? Some of you people need a hobby other than worrying about what’s happening in NE.

  44. CJ is far from “done”. Those writing that can stow it. 88 grabs for 1,214 yards may not be much for Megatron, but…. Yeah. just stow it.

    Nate needs to pipe down.

    Love all the comparisons to Barry. Not. Barry faxed his resignation err……. retirement notice to the Wichita Eagle about five minutes prior to the start of training camp. CJ told the Lions – in person – at the end of the season.

    Thanks to all the Patriots haters. You make reading PFT soooooooooooooo much fun. /s

  45. buckyfan1965 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:56 AM

    Lions just hired a Pats guy as GM. I see a trade in the future. Brady with Megatron, Gronk, and Edelman? Scary.
    ==
    You guys got 24+ million in cap space available for ’16? Because that is the cap hit. Salary is 16 million, but the cap hit means you are dreaming.

  46. The Fords want him, fans want him, Caldwell, Cooter and Stafford wants him. Quinn is doing his job and Calvin, as rumor has it is done. He needs to know so he can get another another receiver.

  47. dukeearl says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:38 AM

    greg3117 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:34 AM
    tvguy22 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:30 AM

    How quickly will he un-retire and sign with the Patriots?
    *************************************

    You can’t un-retire and just sign with anyone unless the incumbent team releases your rights.
    ****************************

    Also he might have a sense of honesty and not care to sign with a cheating team.
    ***************************
    So we can rule out him going to the Broncos or Seahawks…

  48. .
    It is worth mentioning that the mother of his child works in the Lion’s front office. He is devoted to the Lions and will never play for another team – ever.

    If he wants to play next year, he will renegotiate his deal with the Lions and play. He WOULD NEVER try to leverage this into a chance to play for another team.

    He has already called Mrs. Ford and her daughter to thank them for the opportunity to play for the Lions. He is the classiest dude you will ever meet, without any hidden agenda. It is comical to watch national writers try to make this out to be a power play – Calvin would NEVER do that. He has all the money he would ever need. He has earned all the respect in the world. I know some people – this is how it really is.

    You also seem to forget that the Lions finished the season very well – particularly on offense since they changed the OC. The offense suits Calvin’s skills well, if he wanted to play again. I don’t rule out another year since they kept the coaching staff together, but today his body is saying enough. After a few months off, who knows…

    I can certainly hope.

  49. Also he might have a sense of honesty and not care to sign with a cheating team.

    Or maybe he took a science course at some point in his life and knows the Patriots didn’t cheat. And believe me, nobody in the NFLPA blindly believes the the NFL’s front office says.

    They’re not like so many fans who are hopelessly biased.

    The irony here is that Belichick and Brady are far more honest than the competition. Belichick wasn’t dishonest in 2007, he just simply ignored a league memo that was purported to describe the rules about videotaping because the memo was inventing a new rule. And the NFL commissioner isn’t empowered to invent new rules. That’s what the Rules Committee does.

    Goodell is basically a good, old-fashioned crooked judge. He treats his buddies with kid gloves and goes after the franchise that isn’t popular with the other owners.

  50. The only way the Pats get Johnson is if the Lions release him or if a trade happens with the understanding that he’ll redo his contract. His current contract is probably more than twice as much as the Patriots would be willing to pay him.

    The Pats let Revis go rather than meet his contract demands. Seems doubtful they would give Johnson a cap-killer contract.

  51. Johnson is not worth that cap hit, no way! Burleson is annoying… NFL Network is becoming unwatchable..

  52. HE IS NO LONGER MEGATRON, NOW HE IS JUST CALVIN JOHNSON, SO THE LIONS SHOULD MOVE ON FROM HIM ANYWAY.

  53. This is a power move for Johnson. He wants out of there, one more chance with a team that has a chance to win it all. He’s basically forcing them to cut him. If he retires he has to pay 3.2 million back to them for a previous bonus. They will have to cut him by March 1 (or around there) to clear the cap money. Then he’s free to sign will a team like (yes haters) the Patriots, Green Bay (oh that would sting), Seattle (except they can’t pay him), Arizona or Carolina.

  54. dukeearl says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:38 AM

    greg3117 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:34 AM
    tvguy22 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:30 AM

    How quickly will he un-retire and sign with the Patriots?
    *************************************

    You can’t un-retire and just sign with anyone unless the incumbent team releases your rights.
    ****************************

    Also he might have a sense of honesty and not care to sign with a cheating team.

    Ah the jealous haters abound. Think he wouldn’t want to go to NE? Best chance for a ring.

  55. buckyfan1965 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:56 AM

    Lions just hired a Pats guy as GM. I see a trade in the future. Brady with Megatron, Gronk, and Edelman? Scary.
    Especially since he wont have to be the “man” in NE. Talk about redzone targets.

  56. Megatron will be back for one more year in Detroit, but only if Quinn can do something to convince him that the Lions are serious about winning a ring this season.

    If CJ wants to play, the Lions will work out a way to make room in the cap.

    Part of Quinn’s job is to sell tickets. CJ helps sell tickets.

  57. mashoaf says:
    Feb 2, 2016 10:39 AM

    There are 16 million reasons for the players incumbent team to release him if he un-retires.
    _____________________________

    No team is stupid enough to let a player like Calvin Johnson go off and sign with whoever he wants. If he “un-retires” and the Lions want the cap space, they’ll trade him.

  58. The thing is, just like Barry, they lost with him. Would be a different mindset had they won with him (them). You don’t pend that kind of money to lose.

  59. orrrr, Quinn is doing what he said he would do at his introductory presser which was to give CJ time to think it over but that there is a time limit when decisions have to be made by. I guess that’s not dramatic enough for PFT!!

  60. Sure, a guy like Quinn, who learned from Belicheck, is certainly going to come right out and tell the press everything he is doing.

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