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.