Did the Lions successfully bluff Calvin Johnson?

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Of all the intriguing things said to the Italian press by former Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, this quote intrigues me the most: “They told me they would not release my contract, so I would have to come back to them.”

In other words, if Johnson hadn’t retired the Lions would have honored Johnson’s contract in 2016, which carried a cap number of $24 million.

It’s hard to believe they would have done that, especially since he was openly questioning whether he still wanted to play. But they didn’t need to convince me or anyone else that they would have kept him. The Lions needed only to convince Johnson of that fact. And they apparently did.

If the Lions knew that Johnson already had decided to quit playing, it may not have been very difficult to convince him that they weren’t prepared to cut him loose. And if they offered to accept a reduced signing-bonus refund if Johnson retired before his $24 million cap number hit the books in March 2016, that would explain why he didn’t call their bluff, forcing them to carry his cap number and waiting to see if they would blink.

In the end, Johnson blinked. And the end result is that the Lions still hold his rights, keeping him from unretiring and chasing that Super Bowl win he was convinced he’d never get in Detroit.


22 responses to “Did the Lions successfully bluff Calvin Johnson?

  1. That’s fine and all Megatron, you signed that monster deal to stay in Detroit, ride it out or don’t sign the deal. You’re blaming them because you signed a huge deal? If you wanted to win that badly you should of become a free agent.

  2. What bluff?

    It made much more sense for Detroit to TRADE him (same cap hit as an outright release). The new team would renegotiate his deal since no one was going to pay his $24M salary last year.

  3. COuldnt he unretire right about now and be due that $24m? Surely they would have to release him for cap space. He can bluff them back right now.

  4. I don’t really get it. If they didn’t want to carry the 24 million and he wanted to play elsewhere and chase his dream, didn’t he do enough for Detroit for them to let him do that? Seems a little small of them.

  5. ragnarthegreat says:
    I don’t really get it. If they didn’t want to carry the 24 million and he wanted to play elsewhere and chase his dream, didn’t he do enough for Detroit for them to let him do that?

    I sincerely mean no offense to you, but I always chuckle when somebody brings up “all a player did for his team,” as though Calvin Johnson was Mother Theresa who played for free and volunteered as a sheet metal worker in the Ford factory during the offseason.
    The Detroit Lions are employers. Johnson is an employee. He caught plenty of balls for plenty of yards and TDs, and Detroit paid him tens of millions of dollars in compensation for everything he did.
    If Johnson had left as a free agent before signing his last deal you would not have told him he “owed it to Detroit to stay, because of all they had done for him.” You’d say he had leverage and was looking out for himself and his family, and you’d be right.
    That’s all the Lions were doing by holding on to his rights. That, and preventing a flood of future players from trying the same “force a trade” tactic.
    Johnson was still under contract to the Lions. While it was his right to retire, he owed them nothing but to play hard had he chosen to continue his career. The Lions in turn would have owed him nothing besides the salary he and his agent negotiated.
    There are many factors at play in an NFL business relationship, but “all he did for his team” is not one of them.

  6. Didn’t they pull the same thing with Barry Sanders. In fact, I had to look it up to know the exact details and they did, just with some different changes.

    For those that don’t know, Sanders had a 11 million bonus on a six year contract, but opted to retire after two years into it. Lions sued and an Arbirtator ruled that Sander’s has to back 1/6th (1.83 million) of that and, “For the Lions to get the remaining three years, they’ll have to wait — and Sanders must stay retired.”

    The Lions wanted Sanders to repay 5.5million of the bonus. Sanders was trying to get released, so he actually offered to pay the 5.5million to be allowed to become a free agent. But it gets even more interesting because the Lions had already withheld 1.75 million of his signing bonus the previous year which kind of makes it NOT a signing bonus, so he would of only owed 80k that year.

    Anyways, here’s a statement by the Lions on Barry’s camp paying the initial 5.5 million so he can get released.

    “As we have always maintained, it is our intention to take Barry at his word that he has retired from professional football,” Schmidt said.

    “We would welcome him back as a Detroit Lion should he voice to us his desire to return to active duty in the NFL. Until then, we will hold him to the conditions put forth by the arbitrator in this case.”


  7. ragnarthegreat says:
    Jul 11, 2017 6:46 PM
    I don’t really get it. If they didn’t want to carry the 24 million and he wanted to play elsewhere and chase his dream, didn’t he do enough for Detroit for them to let him do that? Seems a little small of them.
    This is seriously some dopey thinking, even for a clueless Barneys fan.

  8. I’m a Lions fan whos been following this team for a long time, and I’m sitting back and laughing at all these comments from people who think they know what they’re talking about but don’t have a clue. Keep em coming, this is entertaining.

  9. Just like Barry Sanders… one of the GOAT’s playing for the Lions that couldn’t take it anymore.

  10. So the Lions called his bluff, saved cap space, he retired, and that’s a successful outcome? Heaven forbid they could try to renegotiate his deal or even work out a trade — why bother trying to improve the team when you can “win” by calling Megatron’s bluff?

  11. This is the most I’ve heard CJ say ever. My guess is he kept quiet while he played. As a star and a leader he should have opened his mouth about where he stood.

    He quit and now wants to “burn the bridge” on the team that buttered his bread.

  12. I don’t know if he had an agent or not, but a decent representative would have known the Lions would not carry him with a cap number at 24 mil. In other words the guy’s an idiot!

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