The Scouting Combine is a bastion of rumors and hot takes. Here’s one that was making the rounds there over the past few days.
Some believe receiver Calvin Johnson is dragging his feet with the Lions so that the Lions will cut him.
The thinking is that Johnson didn’t calculate the move, and that at this point he genuinely does not want to play. But, as the theory goes, Johnson has realized while taking time to mull things over that, if he’s going to retire, it’s better to retire not as a Lion but as a free agent.
If he retires as a Lions and later unretires, the Lions will control his rights. If he retires as a free agent and later unretires, he can sign with any team he wants, unimpeded by the Lions.
In 2008, for example, Brett Favre retired in February. When he decided he wanted to play again later that year, the Packers kept him from joining the Vikings right away, trading him to the Jets.
Perhaps Johnson, if he walks away, will want to return in 2016 or 2017 with another team in the division. If he’s released, he can do that.
Also, if Johnson is cut, the Lions have no basis for seeking repayment of $3.2 million in signing bonus money.
It’s the smartest possible play for Johnson or any other player with a prohibitive cap number who is thinking about walking away. With Johnson at $24 million for 2016, the Lions need Johnson to walk away — if he doesn’t, they could be sending him packing on March 9.
And then, if he wants, he can later make a comeback with the Packers, Vikings, Bears, or anyone else he wants.