The end could be coming for Calvin Johnson in Detroit

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Ndamukong Suh may not be the only top-two pick who could soon be bidding Detroit farewell.

With Suh, the second overall pick in 2010, poised to hit the open market in March, the Lions likewise could decide to tell Calvin Johnson, the second overall pick in 2007, to hit the road at about the same time.

Crazy as it seems, Johnson carries a cap number of $20.558 million into the next league year.  While a restructuring that converts, for example, $10 million of his $12.5 million salary into a signing bonus could cut the cap number down to $12.558 million, the maneuver would drive his 2016 cap number of $24 million up to $26 million.

At some point, Johnson may have to take less money in order to stick around.  If he doesn’t want to do that, the Lions may have to part ways with him.

Johnson’s health will be a major factor in the final analysis. While he has missed only seven games in seven-plus seasons, Johnson lately seems to be always injured, always either missing practice or limited.  And always questionable to play.  Currently, he’s dealing with a chronic ankle injury that may cause him to miss a game or two.

No matter good Johnson may be when healthy, at some point the total analysis will point to spending that money elsewhere.

The fact that the Lions seemed to be interested in trading up from No. 10 to get receiver Sammy Watkins or receiver Mike Evans and ultimately decided to use that pick on hybrid tight end/receiver Eric Ebron (who has only eight catches for 80 yards this season) suggests that the Lions are at least considering the wisdom of reallocating their dollars away from a guy who is one of the best receivers in league history when healthy, but who isn’t healthy enough often enough to justify a cap number that shoots from $13 million to more than $20 million in less than six months.

For more on Johnson and other Lions issues, here’s Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press on Tuesday’s PFT Live.

90 responses to “The end could be coming for Calvin Johnson in Detroit

  1. I dont know why ANY of these players restructure their contracts and push their salary cap number into the later years of their contracts. All they do is make them more likely to be cut later. Unless my team was going to cut me, I would NEVER do that unless they were taking money from a later year and adding to the bonus or something.

  2. This could be the off-season that causes Jerry Jones head to implode. Suh, Johnson, Peterson, and even Larry Fitzgerald could all be free agents. But, Jerry has to pay Tony , Sean (always hurt) Lee, give Dez and Demarco new contracts. Not enough cap room for new toys.

  3. Isn’t healthy enough? Calvin Johnson can miss practice and do whatever he feels like. He’s shown enough through 8 years of pure domination. I love how everyone’s writing him off. What about Brandon Marshall? He’s hurt too. I don’t see people saying Marshall is done and this and that. If there’s anyone on our overpaid roster that deserves their salary, it’s calvin johnson. not stafford, not suh, Calvin.

  4. Could, Should, If, When, Maybe,….

    I just love the logic that the lions drafting a tight end means they are looking to get rid of Calvin Johnson. Makes sense, smh

  5. Ebron hasn’t been lights out with 80 yds and 8 receptions but – and per mlive analysis – his contributions opened up big holes against Buffalo. Too bad the Lions couldn’t capitalize.
    The division is as up for grabs as it was last yr. Hopefully the Lions can take advantage of that with improved play of FGs, a healthy CJ and some consistency at RB. That’s a big wish list, but I will take their chances over Minne, Chi and GB any day.

  6. And Suh will be in Dallas next year…

    Then all that building of a decent Lions squad over the past few years will be shot, with no titles.

    Then back to decades of obscurity again.

    Sleep tight Lions fans… Sleep tight.

  7. The same fate technically awaits every player, at some point you have to find an exit strategy and that’s the name of the GM game, and a good GM will know how to figure out when is the right time to move on and when is the time to double-down or stand pat in retention of a player.

    If the Lions move on from Suh or make other moves that don’t eat up a lot of salary, then there’s very little reason to think they would be pressured to have to move on from him before the 2015 season starts. They have plenty of time to work out a scenario that kicks that can down the road to 2016 and very possibly later than that, so it’s not a bad situation because they have options. Plus the cap could continue to rise which would only alleviate the pressure further of being forced to move on from him and we don’t know to what extent that cap may still rise.

    With any high priced player there is often the option to trade away the player to get out from some of the financial liability while also picking up material. This is the number #1 thing that frustrates me as a fan because I see every single team making countless mistakes in not knowing how to come up with creative financial solutions for expensive players that incorporate a trade-out option.

    It seems all too often that teams improperly take that option off the table rather than capitalizing on it by looking for other teams to buy too high and give up something in return for the right to buy a player higher than what their stock is worth. When you have 31 other valuation opinions in the market, it is a critical element of GM strategy to take advantage of the times that you can find 1 of those 31 other buyers that overvalue somebody in contrast to your own valuation. And when you have 53 stocks to manage at once as well as in all subsequent years, it’s all part of the art of building a team to be shrewd in identifying when to buy and when to sell.

    A great GM knows how to identify and close on deals that net value, and the Lions either need to lock up Calvin Johnson forever, or figure out a way to make one of those value-netting deals. The same can be said for every other player that is ever part of the team. I hope they make winning decisions with every player on the roster for the future in that regard so we can build a dominant dynasty despite their inability to have ever done anything close to that in the past.

    Go Lions!!

  8. This is why they’ve never been in a SB. Why on EARTH would the best receiver in the league take a pay CUT? Forget it. If Calvin’s smart he’ll move on to an dorganization that understands winning.

  9. Ron Burgandy and the Buffalo Bills will welcome you with open arms. How would you like to line up with Watkins, Woods and Williams and have a QB with the coolest suit this side of the 70s passing the ball!

    (if you dont get the reference, look up Kyle Orton cigar and prepare to be amazed…that this guy is somehow this out of date)

  10. I don’t see why the cap number is a big deal. Plenty of quarterbacks make a similar amount every year. Are you telling me the broncos are going to cut manning to save cap space? Megatron is basically the franchise quarterback for the lions, salary wise. You give him whatever he wants.

  11. Well, for every Calvin Johnson there are ten more guys like Mike Williams, Titus Young, and Charles Rogers waiting to take his roster spot. $20M is way too much, and $13M is too pricey even for CJ, so from a money standpoint, I could see it happen.

    This is the price Detroit has to pay for all that losing and all the high draft picks from before the current CBA was instituted.

  12. Even Matt Millen would think this would be silly….

    releasing your best player ?! …..

    lions are nothing without CJ…stafford would not be gaining 5k without CJ hauling crazy passes….

    either way CJ will get his money in DET or elsewhere (perhaps philly with chip kelley liking tall receivers :)! )

  13. He’d be exactly what they need in New England. Considering how far under the cap they are every year they are one of the few teams that would have cap space for him. Shame The Krafts are way too cheap to bring him in.

  14. They also have Golden Tate, who actually catches a higher percentage of passes targeting him than Johnson. Tate makes about 1/4 of what Johnson makes. Tate can be the number 1 receiver, and the Lions can save a lot of money by parting with both Suh and Johnson.

  15. As much as I love Calvin, there’s a season for everything. Nothing lasts forever. If there was no cap, it may be worth it to keep him. But given the salary cap and the wear/tear a player takes, it may just be time to bid him good-bye.

  16. Revisit your thought after week 14, and lets see how that idea is working out. Total nonsense if you ask me, he is not going anywhere.

  17. He’s a stud but wide receivers are pretty much a shiny hood ornament. Thy put up nice stats but joe position won’t win you football games. When he set a league record for most receiving yards, didn’t the Lions go 4-12?

    Also, it would probably make sense to use some of that coin to help in other areas (Def Secondary).

  18. Detroit would be absolute fools to get rid of Megatron over some recent nagging injuries. He’s their best player, and without him it will be very easy for defenses to key in on Golden Tate, Ebron/Fauria, and the RB corps.

  19. I think when he’s done with the Lions, he’ll be done with the NFL. Also, the Lions will almost have to sign Suh, but if they don’t I would expect the Lions to switch to a 3-4 defense. Finding one nose will be easier than finding two DT’s, especially with this upcoming draft. This isn’t a good year for DT’s.

  20. I swear this site exclusively speculates player release or trade based solely on cap numbers. “A player will be expensive to keep so clearly he will be dealt in the near future.” what sense would it make to send calvin packing? He is their offense, Stafford is a decent qb but he has his flaws and Megatron is his safety blanket. Reference that prayer he lofted up into triple coverage against cincy a while back, would that have worked with anyone but Johnson on the receiving end? The qb contract is locked up they don’t have many other big contracts so why get rid of your best player? They paid the man for a reason.

  21. He got paid and he isn’t trying to win a Super Bowl .. If he happens to play in one .. Great .. but he isn’t interested in playing hurt to help his team get there… for the record Brett Favre didn’t miss a start in 297 consecutive games .. and he played with a broken thumb on his throwing hand.. more than once.

  22. No way they let Calvin Johnson go, they will just keep restructuring his deal, they will likely do the same with Stafford too, I find it hard to believe they’ll let Suh go without a fight as well but that remains to be seen I suppose as he will at least hit the open market most likely.

  23. The idea was entertained last off-season. Are you only catching up with the possibility now? The Lions have ~$50 million tied up in Stafford, Johnson & Suh. Something (somebody) has got to give. Johnson’s the oldest of that group.

  24. This has to be a joke, right? There is no way in heck that they ever let Calvin Johnson go anywhere. Yeah, he’s been hurt THIS year, but he is a stud, probably the best ever. He is worth every single dime he is getting paid and to suggest he should be cut, is about as insane as one could get.

  25. Either Suh or Calvin is leaving, but not both. I’d guess Calvin will restructure. The Lions have always loaded up on talent for Stafford; there’s no way they drop Calvin unless they can pick up another top-end receiver that’s younger, healthier, and costs significantly less.

    Suh is going to hit the open market and see if he gets stupid, JJ Watt type money, and come back if he doesn’t. His play absolutely merits it, but his “non-play” shenanigans in the past may have cost him that level of contract, so it’s possible he remains in Detroit, too. I wouldn’t bet on it, but it’s possible.

  26. The end of Calvin Johnson in Detroit would also effectively spell the end of Matthew Stafford, whose limited success is largely attributable to flinging the ball in the general vicinity of his dominating WR. If the Lions would consider moving past the Megatron era soon they must also plan on acquiring Stafford’s replacement even sooner.

  27. Speculate much? Dude has a twisted ankle. Before that he was GOAT. Let him rest and get to 100% before they cut him due to declining play and high cap number. He’s got a few more great years in him.

  28. please. too bad people don’t understand how the cap works. they will convert his salary to bonus, and add on a few more years to the contract to spread it out. His numbers really aren’t that big for the rest of his contract with the majority of it in base salary and not that much bonus allocation.

  29. It is impossible to stay competitive when a single player other than the QB is commanding 1/7 th of your salary for the entire team. Add in the cost of Stafford and there simply isn’t enough money to go around. Look for Johnson to move on after this year, as well as Suh. For all their talent they haven’t produced even a division title yet.

  30. Somehow I don’t think that cutting Calvin Johnson and then going back to spending their first round draft pick on on wide recievers for the next three or four seasons. Matt Millen isn’t the GM any longer.

    If anything, you trade him. The Browns, Raiders, and Jets will have plenty of cap space and could use even a two or three year rental of a top end reciever.

  31. After watching the “greatness” that is Matthew Stafford look like Jay Schroeder for four quarters against the Bills while Megatron was hobbled it is my humble opinion that if the Lions jettison Johnson they might as well jettison Stafford right behind him. Megatron is to Stafford what Randy Moss was to Daunte Culpepper. Without the great receiver the supposedly great Culpepper became average in a big time hurry and all indications are that the same will happen to Stafford without Johnson. Johnson is a freak of nature, and he is worth the money they pay him. If he’s willing to restructure (and I’m sure he probably will be) the Lions will find a way to keep him, if for no other reason than to delay their search for a new franchise QB for a couple of years, since Megatron makes Stafford a lot better than he should be.

  32. Calvin Johnson needs to leave so that he doesn’t end up wasting his career away with a losing team like Andre Johnson has with the Texans. Both are awesome WRs that will never win anything with their teams.

  33. Good for him. I hope he takes advantage. Though I feel badly for Detroit fans…the next few years are crucial for him as a player. He won’t be getting any younger. And his superior talents are going to waste in Detroit, if he wants to get in on some playoffs games (and possibly beyond) before it’s time to hang ’em up.

  34. what is with Detroit and terrible contracts? and all restructuring does is kick the can down the road so that is an “all-in” proposition and you mortgage your future doing so. Suh and Johnson, both NON-qbs, having over 20 million cap hits? that is complete idiocy.

  35. the packers let go of greg Jennings and the Vikings gave him and 8 mill a year contract for a measley 41 yards a game average so far. Now I know Greg is no Calvin but it is the same though process for all players. You dont’ pay someone for what they’ve done in the past, you pay for what you expect in their future. Calvin has had chronic injuries, and been in the league 7 years, and is almost 30. now does he still have a place in this league? of course! will that place be worth a 20 million cap hit? hard to say but unless your a franchise qb the answer is most likely not.

  36. Injured…CUT HIM! Seriously though, sports media loves to overreact. I understand the cap implications but if they cut him next year, the dead money is higher than the cap hit. The year after its 13 mil. Maybe in 2017 when his dead money is under 5 mil. But unless this team thinks its time to rebuild, it doesnt make sense to cut him.

  37. He belongs w/the Raiders.

    Shoulda, coulda, woulda… The Raiders drafted JaMarcus Russell w/the #1 overall and Megatron went second to the Lions.

    Its only befitting that the Raiders, who have continued to stagnate since that draft, would have the need, cap space, and money to pay him.

  38. Some of you posters are extremely funny and obviously not cognizant of some facts.

    1. Why do players restructure? Because it takes SALARY money (which is paid game by game) and turns it into BONUS money (which is paid in a lump sum). So, if you hit the lottery, would you prefer to get all your money now, or get it paid out as an annuity? Most people would take the lump sum, and that is a wise move.

    2. Calvin is the best receiver in the league WHEN HEALTHY. When not healthy, which has pretty much been consistent over the past two seasons, he is merely a diversion and can be limited in his production by decent cornerbacks with size. Calvin is no longer worth $20 million per season to ANY team, regardless of what QB is throwing to him. Years of being the only talent in the receiving corps in Detroit, and having him getting pounded, has taken its toll.

    3. I highly doubt Detroit is seriously considering releasing Calvin, but they might be looking into having him take a reduction in pay. He is overvalued and overpaid when measured against his health and production. It’s that simple.

  39. Oh please, two games where he is nursing an injury and suddenly it’s time to cut him! LOL

    What they need to do is park him for a game or two and let him GET HEALTHY instead of sending him out there as a decoy. Personally as a Lions fan I would rather see that happen at this point and see what Ebron, Broyles, etc. can do in this offense. Tate has proved he is the real deal and can carry the load, and maybe, just maybe, Stafford will have to live without his safety blanket and make some smarter throws to other receivers which can only benefit him.

    As always the Lions oscillate back and forth from being dominant to beating themselves, but if you get a better rythm established on offense they will be tough to beat. Frankly I won’t believe in them until the end of the season either way. March into GB and beat the Pack at Lambeau and then I’ll believe they are legit.

  40. “Suh is going to hit the open market and see if he gets stupid, JJ Watt type money, and come back if he doesn’t. His play absolutely merits it, but his “non-play” shenanigans in the past may have cost him that level of contract, so it’s possible he remains in Detroit, too. I wouldn’t bet on it, but it’s possible.”

    Suh doesn’t have non-play shenanigans…. He’s clean as a whistle off the field

  41. If this is true..which I doubt. the Lions paid Stafford way way too much..but in this “passing” league..who else would you get..if the Lions didn’t overpay him, someone else would of..Calvin Johnson already had a sorry throwing QB in Reggie Ball at GT so that didn’t need to happen. Suh, on the other hand is definitely gone…But I be hard pressed to see the Lions let Johnson walk…don’t see it homey.

  42. There is NO way this will happen. Being a lifelong Lions’ fan, I believe they will follow suit (different coaches, same mgt). They will keep CJ long past his prime and over pay him during that time only to handcuff them from drafting future offensive talent.

  43. As a Lions fan, I’ll simply say that their cap management has been abysmal. Yet I hear many a Lions fan call for Martin Mayhew’s job while there is almost no screech about the performance of Tom Lewand. Lewand is responsible for player contracts and should be taken to task for his handling of the payroll. Having 40% of your cap space eaten by three players because you keep extending guys over & over again is no way to run a franchise.

    This team keeps making moves like they are one player away from a championship when they clearly are not. Get it together, Lewand. Call your old friend (you know, the one you helped usher out the door) Ron Hughes and ask him to share some of the secrets he has learned since joining the Steelers.

    There you go, Florio. You called it (first I might add) out in 2008 when you said Lewand was slick. He has been poor at his job yet he receives little or no scrutiny. What a joke.

    Because Lions…

  44. To mention Suh in this article as if his value is comparable with that of Calvin Johnson is ridiculous! An albeit decent defensive tackle does not compare with the most dominant offensive weapon in the game! If they let Johnson walk their offense becomes impotent immediately. No one else on that team casts the shadow of a threat. The only reason the rest of those scrubs do anything is that the entire defense is focused on Calvin. Please let him walk and ensure that the Packers walk through the division until Aaron Rodgers retires.

  45. Hey fellow Buffalo Bills fans –

    You know what is really exciting, with Pegula taking over this week, is that Buffalo can and will actually be in the running to land these top free agents now! Ralph Wilson was a great man and great owner but he was a bit if a cheap skate… There was a team budget and they stuck to it. They never really went after top free agents (except maybe once).
    With Pegula, that will be MUCH different now. Buffalo will finally have the ability to target (and land) the top free agents! It’s an exciting time to be a Buffalo sports fan! (Btw, I’m not saying that the Bills will pursue either of these 2 particular free agents, I just meant in general)

  46. So this is just a made up article without any reason behind it? Kind of a really dumb hypothetical article. That being said, if the patriots got him he would score 30 tds next year

  47. “Calvin Johnson can miss practice and do whatever he feels like. He’s shown enough through 8 years of pure domination. I love how everyone’s writing him off”

    Yeah. I totally see how the Lions are dominating the playoffs in the NFC.

    You know, with what really matters?

  48. This could very well be the last year the Lions could find a willing trade partner for Johnson, that’s exactly why they should make the trade, use the picks. After that’s it’s cut for salary cap space…They would be just fine with Funchess and a new RB at a much friendlier salary cap level

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