Last week at the Scouting Combine, a theory was circulating that both Lions receiver Calvin Johnson and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning hope to be released even if they’re retiring, so that they could later unretire and immediately play elsewhere.
Now, less than a week before the day on which all teams must be in compliance with the salary cap, neither Johnson nor Manning have officially retired. Which makes it even more likely that the end game is to retire not a Lion or a Bronco, respectively, but as a free agent.
Retiring as a free agent allows for a comeback as a free agent, with the ability to join any other team at any other time. Whether that’s in the offseason, during training camp, during the preseason, during the regular season, or during the playoffs, a free agent who retires can unretire at will.
With Manning creating the impression on Wednesday night (as explained on Thursday’s PFT Live by NFL Media’s Jeff Darlington) that Manning isn’t done playing, and with the Broncos presumably done with Manning, the signs are pointing not to Manning being placed on the reserve/retired list but to Manning’s contract being terminated.
While much isn’t being said about Calvin Johnson (especially in comparison to Manning), Johnson’s failure to formalize a decision he reportedly made months ago suggests a realization that, in order to enhance his options if/when he decides to play again, he needs to be released by the Lions. With a $24 million cap number kicking in on Wednesday, that could be coming, soon.