In addition to announcing that all Lions coordinators have signed contract extensions, G.M. Martin Mayhew has said that the team will try to sign two of its key players to new contracts.
According to Anwar Richardson of MLive.com, Mayhew said the team wants to sign receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive end Cliff Avril to new contracts.
The motivations are entirely different. Avril will become a free agent in March. Johnson, who signed a six-year deal when taken with the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, has unlocked a cap-busting base salary of $14 million for 2012, according to NFLPA records.
Signing Johnson to a long-term deal would drop his cap number and free up more money to do other business. Likewise, the failure to sign Johnson would require the Lions to use the franchise tag in 2013 to keep Calvin around, with a one-year tender that would be, at a minimum, $16.8 million.
And so the Lions, who suddenly have become competitive, will now have to deal with the downside of being a winning team — finding a way under the salary cap to retain enough players to remain competitive.
It’s a problem that Lions fans surely will welcome.