Calvin Johnson to Lions: If you want me back in the fold, give me my money back

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The Lions want to make peace with receiver Calvin Johnson. There’s only one way to do it.

Make money appear in Johnson’s bank account.

They already know what they got to do,” Johnson told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press on Saturday. “The only way they’re going to get me back is they put that money back in my pocket. Nah, you don’t do that. I don’t care what they say. They can put it back, then they can have me back. That’s the bottom line.”

The Lions required Johnson to reimburse the team for a portion of the signing bonus money that he hadn’t earned before retiring three years ago. The specific amount has been the subject of conflicting reports and accounts, but it’s currently believed that, of the $3.2 million that Johnson had not earned in signing bonus money, he paid back at least $1 million.

Whatever the specific amount on the check written by Johnson to the Lions, Johnson clearly wants that same amount written on a check made out to him before he’ll make nice with the team. Until that happens, Johnson believes there’s nothing to discuss.

“I ain’t talked to [team president] Rod [Wood],” Johnson said. “I don’t even want to talk about that. I don’t have no reason to talk about that. I don’t even talk about the Lions. I mean, I talk to my Lions that came out here to help me out today. . . . I appreciate them so much for that. Just hope to keep those kind of relationships rolling for in the future because these kids, man, they take so much from that.”

Although a signing bonus constitutes advance payment for future services to be rendered, the circumstances surrounding Johnson’s departure from the team suggest that the Lions would have cut Johnson before his cap number spiked to $24 million in March 2016. In hindsight, the smart move for Johnson would have been not to retire but to force the team to choose between carrying the cap number or cutting him. Alternatively, Johnson’s agent to negotiate a deal with the Lions that would have given them the cap relief they needed while also waiving their right to seek bonus money.

Regardless of what happened in the past, it’s now clear what the Lions need to do if they hope to make amends with the best receiver in franchise history. And the easiest way to do that (since there’s no salary cap for non-players) would be to hire him as a team ambassador, and to pay him for the first year the money that was recovered, along with maybe a little more.

111 responses to “Calvin Johnson to Lions: If you want me back in the fold, give me my money back

  1. It was a privilege to play for the Lions in the NFL. He messed up front office planning by handling it the way he did, and created a throw-away season environment. If anybody needs to extend an olive branch it’s him, not the Lions. Signing bonuses is guaranteed money…….guaranteed if you’re playing.

  2. So he wants the money he didn’t earn. How is that ‘my money’? I wonder if he hired someone to paint his house he’d still pay them even if they didn’t do the job? I bet he’d keep ‘their money’.

  3. Nah, who cares… he didn’t earn that money so why should he get it. He shouldn’t of retired. Doesn’t matter how good he was.

  4. Detroit gave him $110 million over his career. And he’s going to spite them over $1m he didn’t even earn. Wow.

  5. Well, I can see his point. It’s a signing bonus. He signed, they paid. Then they took some of it back.

    I also see their point. He retired, so he owes us a prorated share of the signing bonus.

    He’d probably be better off just taking the high road.
    Don’t sound like he’s wired that way though.

  6. When the two greatest Lion players in recent memory – Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson – both walked out on the team, it suggests that it might be the ownership, not the players.

  7. Long time Lions fan here. The organization really dropped the ball with the way they handled Megatrons departure. I mean, yeah, technically they were within their rights to demand the money back, but other organizations don’t do this type of thing. It’s almost an unspoken rule. And it wasn’t like CJ ever caused trouble either. He was a RARE non-diva superstar WR. He played with busted up fingers, taking hits in traffic from triple team defenses targeting his body rather than the ball, and doing all this in largely meaningless games.

    Pay the man, we have such few stars. Let’s not alienate another one (see Barry Sanders).

  8. After earning tens of millions you’d think he’d sound a little smarter than some street hobo. Get some education Calvin!

  9. Bobby Layne was the greatest Detroit Lion. A million people claim to have had a drink with Bobby Layne and their all telling the truth.

  10. Dude makes zillions playing a game and with all endorsements! Now he’s crying bout a million he didn’t earn?? People wonder why the NFL players are called divas and whiners!

  11. Couldn’t careless if they reconcile he was going to sign with another team anyway he didn’t win anything here either

  12. If I was a NFL agent, I’d use this as an example as what not to do. Don’t retire; you lose all leverage. Make the team negotiate for a “cap relief” extension or cut you. He only has himself to be angry with, unless his agent failed to earn him what might happen with retirement.

  13. Wow these Lions fans on here are delusional just like their team’s owners. Did they have a right to take back some of his signing bonus? Yes. Do other teams in the league go after signing bonus money after a legendary player retires? Never. Stay classy Detroit Lions.

  14. HurtsToReadComments says:
    June 1, 2019 at 4:10 pm
    Just Another NFL diva, lost my respect for Calvin
    ———————————————————————————–
    I lost respect for the Lions after the way they treated him back then. All the fans can give the team a pass and blame Johnson now because he`s gone and they are still fans of the team but as they sat thru those Matt Millen seasons Calvin was the reason they were still worth watching and just like with Barry Sanders ownership and management screwed it up and showed them no respect.When you mistreat your best players the effects trickle down to the rest of the roster so there is a reason Detroit always looks like a bunch of players and not a team.

  15. carloswlassiter says:
    June 1, 2019 at 4:11 pm
    When the two greatest Lion players in recent memory – Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson – both walked out on the team, it suggests that it might be the ownership, not the players.
    ++++++
    Yeah, it probably is or was.
    But forgiveness isn’t given because it’s deserved; no one deserves it.

  16. That bonus is a divided into each year you sign. If you dont play those years you signed for, that’s not your money.

    Loved CJ as a player, but his take is illogical here. You don’t get to keep money you didn’t earn that year (whether he outplayed other years is irrelevant).

  17. Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson are two of the all-time greats! Yet they just up and walk away from the Lions. Hmm…

  18. Heard awhile back with a story told by a former teammate of Johnson’s . He said when they were together with a group of players they ordered pizza for delivery which cost well over $200 Johnson paid at the door and gave no tip . All the other players started shaming him so he begrudgingly ran to the door yelled for the driver to come back and tipped $10 which caused the other players present to continue shaming him while they added to his tip . He went on to say Johnson was known as the cheapest guy on the team which is why they stuck him for the pizza to begin with . Laughing he said Johnson could reach almost any pass thrown on the field but somehow it always seemed his arms were too short to pick up a tab .

  19. I see where he’s coming from. To put it in perspective an employer doesn’t pay a bonus for what you will do in the future, a bonus is paid for what you have already done for the employer. So say the average person has a job and they exceeded their goals in every way and say received a $6,000 bonus but they decided to retire before the fiscal end year. Then the company makes you pay the bonus back. How would anyone feel about that??

  20. Wow. I wonder if Calvin is hiring and is willing to pay me in full up front? I’ll do half the job and quit and keep the money. If he continues to use his logic then he shouldn’t have a problem with it.

    Quite frankly, Calvin walked away from what was a pretty good roster, a solid defense, and a team that went 9-7 in 2016 and made the playoffs. I’m sure they would’ve lost in the Wildcard round regardless (this IS the Lions we’re talking about), but that team would’ve been a lot better if he’d been on it.

  21. It’s a SIGNING BONUS. The only thing prorated about it is the cap hit. Did he sign a new contract each year and get a prorated amount? No. A signing bonus is a bonus for signing. Not for future performance.

  22. I don’t think Calvin walked away, limped away was more like it. I truly don’t know if the bonus was a reward for past contributions, or an advance on his upcoming salary. Only the Lions can tell us that for sure. But he is coming off very badly in this, and might better have reserved these comments for a meeting with lions ownership. As a player I remember him never complaining, and giving his all on some miserable teams. There were some good ones, but most were not. It’s kind of sad his legacy is tarnished now

  23. So all I’m getting from this is Calvin Johnson is most likely broke now.

  24. How is a man supposed to feed his family having earned over a hundred million dollars if the team tries to take back $1000000?
    Poor Calvin. I hope he doesn’t starve 😨

  25. I’m sure of two things- first, the CBA covers this situation explicitly; second, the Detroit Lions acted completely within the rules of the CBA. I hardly think CJ has a case based on the letter of the law/CBA.

    That being said, can’t the Lions and he come to some type of “ambassador” position agreement and make it a win-win? Unless, of course, the Lions don’t want anything to do with him. Maybe there’s more to the story…

  26. I, too, want to tell someone else to not get worked up over giving back $1,000,000

  27. cdace13 says:
    June 1, 2019 at 4:56 pm
    It’s a SIGNING BONUS. The only thing prorated about it is the cap hit. Did he sign a new contract each year and get a prorated amount? No. A signing bonus is a bonus for signing. Not for future performance.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    It is called a signing bonus but it is often the back end of the contract given up front. If the team cuts him they forfeit the unearned portion already paid. If the player stops playing he owes the unearned portion to the team. This is easy to see considering he had to have given that money back since he was paid it when he signed the contract.

  28. Honestly, who cares if Calvin Johnson is ‘back in the fold’ with the Lions?
    We’re talking about a virtually irrelevant nationally franchise and because he played for them a virtually irrelevant nationally former player. Key word: former

    Nothing about anyones lives, including Lions fans, changes if Johnson has a good relationship with his former team or doesn’t.

    He was a good player, but really has no legacy. Is there anything memorable about him, a game you remember, a playoff performance that awed you? Did you even remember he retired 3 years ago?

  29. “I ain’t talked to [team president] Rod [Wood],” Johnson said. “I don’t even want to talk about that. I don’t have no reason to talk about that. I don’t even talk about the Lions. I mean, I talk to my Lions that came out here to help me out today. . .

    Doesn’t say much for a Georgia Tech education….

  30. shurmanblog says:

    June 1, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    Heard awhile back with a story told by a former teammate of Johnson’s . He said when they were together with a group of players they ordered pizza for delivery which cost well over $200 Johnson paid at the door and gave no tip . All the other players started shaming him so he begrudgingly ran to the door yelled for the driver to come back and tipped $10 which caused the other players present to continue shaming him while they added to his tip . He went on to say Johnson was known as the cheapest guy on the team which is why they stuck him for the pizza to begin with . Laughing he said Johnson could reach almost any pass thrown on the field but somehow it always seemed his arms were too short to pick up a tab .

    ________________________

    For the case of this story, tips are not mandatory and being cheap is how millionaires stay millionaires. If anything it tells me that Calvin is the type of player that won’t go broke after leaving the NFL, then the typical player that has to find other form of work because they blew a substantial amount of money.

  31. I hear where he’s coming from. I’d also love to have a pocket full of money that I didn’t earn.

  32. So he wants the money back that he was never entitled to in the first place because he walked away? What a knucklehead

  33. “Is there anything memorable about him, a game you remember, a playoff performance that awed you?”

    There was that 329 receiving yard game, the game in which Dez Bryant said he was better than Calvin.

    Megatron was a monster. Only history revisionists could deny this.

  34. Blame yourself and your agent. If people on this website have better advice about how you could have handled the end of your time in Detroit, and not have had to pay money back, then you have a crappy agent.

  35. You guys are crapping on the wrong person. Calvin sounds bitter because he should be bitter; he had a HUGE cap number and all the leverage, and could’ve forced the Lions to cut him, freeing him to go to a contending team OR retire with all his bonus money. But he did the honorable thing, and was either assured they wouldn’t try to collect his bonus money or simply thought that since he did them a solid, they would do him a solid.

    He was wrong. I remember when he announced his retirement, I thought he was making a mistake not pinning the Lions to the wall. He was too nice. He should be pissed.

  36. You know who would never try to pull a stunt like this? Larry Fitzgerald. Classiest guy in the league. Some of these diva WR’s could learn a LOT by emulating Larry.

  37. I think he would have been better off keeping that private. After all, the only reason he had to pay back money is because he retired. Apparently he didn’t consider the consequences. Had he handled it the way the article describes this wouldn’t be an issue. Saying this in public only makes him look childish.

  38. I wish it were possible for both sides to lose this PR battle. Maybe it has already happened.

  39. Tashan Harrison says:
    June 1, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    For the case of this story, tips are not mandatory and being cheap is how millionaires stay millionaires. If anything it tells me that Calvin is the type of player that won’t go broke after leaving the NFL, then the typical player that has to find other form of work because they blew a substantial amount of money.

    ———————————–
    Kind of ironic considering that pizza delivery employee’s salaries are dependent upon tips – much like waiters and waitresses. A person complaining about having to pay back an undeserved portion of a signing bonus that was given to him based on playing a certain number of years should be the last person cheating a pizza delivery person out of a tip. Plus, I don’t care how wealthy you are – common sense should tell you – stiff a pizza driver on a tip – and your next pizza has a high probability of being extra “special.”

  40. Calvin johnson and all NFL players earn their signing bonuses when they sign. Just because the signing bonus counts towards the cap or dead money on a prorated basis over the life of the contract, it should have no bearing on whether or not it was earned. Signing bonus is just that, for signing. They are not called prepaid earnings. The CBA should be clear on this. If it isnt then the players need to address it in the next CBA.

  41. I’m more with Calvin on this. Signing bonuses are often spread across the contract years on the balance sheet purely for the team’s benefit of massaging their cap rather than being a yearly enticement to a player in return for showing up each year – which should instead be listed as a guaranteed portion of that year’s base salary or as roster bonus etc. But the team didn’t do it that way because it suited them to pay it all in that one year’s cap and then spread the actual cost across several years.

    Not paying him may seem morally just, but a signing bonus is not upfront payment for future playing years as you claim (i.e. a roster bonus) but is purely for signing up, and if teams want to out-do each other to entice a player with that sort of bonus that should be their look-out not his.

  42. Hey Italianarmy—you are probably correct about the million people who had a drink with Bobby Layne. Don’t forget, many of them were in Pittsburgh trying to tell him to avoid trolleys; they stay on track and don’t turn easily, Bobby!!!

  43. He was stupid to quit,now he probably needs money he never earned so i don’t know why he says “my money”when he’s the one who turned down the opportunity to earn it.that would be like me going back to one of my old jobs and saying give me money.he must know how stupid he sounds!

  44. Barry Sanders retired for a variety of reasons. One was his health. His knees. His hips.

    Barry was the rare athlete who played the game at a high level and walked away with his health. And as a Kansas native I have always applauded him for it.

  45. His attitude is really crappy.
    He didnt earn that money, but says he will only have something to do with the team who paid him a hundred million, if they give him that money? Screw him. Notice he never, ever, ever mentions fans?
    And these dumb fans who mention him and Barry, like the Lions failed them. Uh, no….they were paid a lot, and they broke contracts to demand more. Well, with a salary cap, more to one player means less to bring in quality free agents. So they made their money, handicapped the Lions, and then have the audacity to play the victim?
    How many playoffs or Super Bowls did we get from those investments?
    I can remember Calvin dropping lots of critical 3rd down passes, untouched. Fumbles at the goal line.
    Even the “no catch” he was stupid on and slammed the ball down too soon to celebrate, making a referee call it an incomplete pass. Horrible call, but he made it happen.

    He sounds like an idiot when he talks now, and his demeanor is a turn off.
    I enjoyed watching him, but he’s in the past.
    I could care less if I ever see him around the Lions.

  46. “I ain’t talked to [team president] Rod [Wood],” Johnson said. “I don’t even want to talk about that. I don’t have no reason to talk about that. I don’t even talk about the Lions. I mean, I talk to my Lions that came out here to help me out today. .
    =======================
    Maybe he should have stayed in school to learn how to compose a comprehensive sentence.

  47. If it was his “his money” he would not have given it back,he walked away,he did not earn a dime of that money that does not exist anymore technically there are 0 dollars he is speaking of cause he never played another down so that money never existed,there is nothing to give back,unless the lions want to pay him to be part of the organization,they would dumb to do that!

  48. Entitled much? Geez, guy makes all that loot, they give him some at the end he hadn’t earned yet and he is mad he didn’t get to keep it all. And all the time speaking with fifth grade grammar skills. Lucky he was an athlete or he would be in crowd demanding $15/hr. minimum.

  49. A signing bonus is just what it says, a “signing bonus” payable for signing the contract and they’re used to try and lure players to sign with a team, it doesn’t matter how the NFL or the teams divides it up for cap purposes it’s all due as soon as the player signs and they shouldn’t have to give one cent of it back!

    Now a roster bonus(which is what most people apparently think this is) is a yearly bonus and can be recoverable.

  50. Signing bonuses are NOT golden parachutes for retiring. If that was the case everyone on the tail end of their last contract would do it.

  51. stuartscottslefteye says:
    June 1, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    Kind of ironic considering that pizza delivery employee’s salaries are dependent upon tips – much like waiters and waitresses.
    ________________________________________

    Moral of the story: don’t take a job based on tips! These employers should pay their employees and don’t give me that “they work for you” stuff, everyone in the service industry “works for you” so why don’t they all get paid by tips? Just imagine your roofer, carpenter, lawn care guy, plumber, lawyer, or doctor relying on tips. BTW they’re all part of the service sector too just like waiters and waitresses!

  52. Matt Millen said if the team owner ever wanted him to leave he wouldn’t ask for the balance of the money owed on his contract. So when he was asked to leave, he still asked for that cash.
    So if CJ wants money he didn’t earn, tell him to go ask Millen for it.

  53. While the lions were certainly right to make him pay back the money, it seems like a common sense business move to give him back the cash. If they can work this out, there is a lot of potential for money to be made for both parties.

  54. magnumpimustache says:
    June 1, 2019 at 4:39 pm
    Barry Sanders quit in his prime.

    Megatron quit in his prime.

    Detroit has deprived true football fans of watching the best football players
    …………………………………………………………………………..

    nice try….barry retired when he was 30 far from a rb prime no matter who you are……also his stats fell off a cliff his final season..

  55. Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson both walked away from the Lions. There’s got to be something up with the Lions.

  56. These NFL players are something else. Guaranteed money is money your given for present and future play. If you don’t play in the future, then that portion of the guaranteed money should be returned.

    You don’t get paid something for nothing. He earned 110 million before that; he needs to be grateful for the career and the life long financial security that the Lions have given him.

  57. Who cares about the lions anyways?
    They suck! The browns at least give you something to talk about each season.. The lions.. Well, they just suck!

  58. Calvin, only a broke loser would do public relations and appearance work for FREE. Many people commenting here are such broke ass losers. Stick to your guns brother, you are NOT a slave and if your price to “make nice” is millions then they need to get your money. Lest you wind up like the broke jackasses here angry you have self respect and will not give your time to a billion dollar organization for free.

  59. Calvin, only a broke loser would do public relations and appearance work for FREE. Many people commenting here are such broke losers. Stick to your guns brother, you are NOT a slave and if your price to “make nice” is millions then they need to get your money. Lest you wind up like the broke jacksessa here angry you have self respect and will not give your time to a billion dollar organization for free.

  60. People saying Calvin is being greedy. The team has made how many millions of dollars and is owned by people way richer then Calvin and Calvin is being the greedy one? I guess that money is not really guaranteed then. In the NFL if a player wants a new deal he’s not honoring the contract but the team is never called out for cutting players early because it’s in the teams best interest so it’s ok. Never understood that mindset of fans that the players are always wrong in this for wanting their couple million when the league makes billions every year.

  61. Lion fans acting like Calvin Johnson is why their organization is one of the worse in the NFL. It’s actually poor management and it’s the reason good players don’t go to Detroit. One commenter stated it was a privilege to play for the Lions. Only a Lion fan would think that.

  62. Sure, the signing bonus is for signing — for agreeing to play those years, not for simply signing his name on paper.

    If Kyler Murray signs his contract, then never reports to the Cardinals, would people say, “Too bad — he signed, so he earned that “signing” bonus!”

  63. If bonuses are for past service or current year, they would have to be smaller. Players and board jockeys up for that?

  64. Again, just play year to year if you want to net on yourself. Typical symptom of today’s society, I want to be paid for something I did not do.

  65. Only hole in the working in a PR role is fact that he is not at all articulate. That would help as it does in all endeavors

  66. Decisions like these are why the Lions will never win a Super Bowl. Keep defending your idiotic front office Lions fans and Hall of Fame talent will never play in Detroit.

  67. The decision to draft a WR at #2 overall is typical for an organization that has never been a winner. Drafting Calvin Johnson that early was a huge mistake. Why on earth would the Lions want to bring back their losing past, when they went out and hired a new coach from the greatest NFL dynasty of all time? Even if the Lions make a charitable donation to Johnson, like he’s asking for, I’d tell him to stay away. Not a good role model for the young Lions. In fact, I might even pay him to stay away.

  68. First, Cal wasn’t that good toward the end anyways. Certainly not a 24 mil receiver.
    Second, I cant imagine an agent not spelling out his options and insisting he stick around and get a new contract with someone else. Retirement gives the agent zip. I say Cal just got mad or knew the end was in sight and said enough. Only guaranteed money is paid out. Bonus money has to be earned and he didn’t earn it. Maybe he needed a better agent.
    Last the Lions don’t want him back. This is not even the same team he left.

  69. Lions dont want him back a a player, they would like to have him back as a team abassador with a healthy relationship between the two.

  70. My initial thought here was “wants pay for service not rendered”. When thinking about it… the team could benefit greatly over the course of his life, with his presence and support. I guess this shows you the value Ford’s place on players in general. As an Eagles fan who sees the team do things like pay Nick Foles a bonus he didn’t earn, it is an interesting difference in the two franchises. Probably only one of many reasons one is considered a top org and the other is considered a bottom feeder.

  71. Barry Sanders never quit or gave up on the Lions. He retired after ten seasons of being the focal point of the team.
    See how your body feels after running for over 15,000 yards…

  72. The question is whether he can still play and whether he can stay healthy if he does play.

  73. beedubyatoo says:
    June 1, 2019 at 7:11 pm
    “I ain’t talked to [team president] Rod [Wood],” Johnson said. “I don’t even want to talk about that. I don’t have no reason to talk about that. I don’t even talk about the Lions. I mean, I talk to my Lions that came out here to help me out today. .
    =======================
    Maybe he should have stayed in school to learn how to compose a comprehensive sentence.

    ****************************

    Oh the irony

  74. Wow these Lions fans on here are delusional just like their team’s owners. Did they have a right to take back some of his signing bonus? Yes. Do other teams in the league go after signing bonus money after a legendary player retires? Never. Stay classy Detroit Lions.
    =================================
    True.

    Exhibit A: Broncos pay Terrell Davis * YEARS* after his knees go Swiss Cheese and the Lions go all stingy the minute Megatron retires.

    I think people are confusing “normal” salaries (your thousands, not millions
    You pull in) with what’s “normal” in the NFL.

  75. After CJ’s comments about wanting 1 million (he did not earn) after getting 110 million from his team, why should the Lions want him back in the fold? Even less so if he can’t speak intelligently or lost all his money. He clearly doesn’t get it..

  76. He’s the Randy Moss of the Lions, athletically gifted but too self-centered and self-important.

    Moss being a jerk is why I’m delighted he never earned a ring.

  77. You guys crack me up. I don’t see any of you wanting to pay a third of your Xmas bonus back to your employer. Get outta here.. CJ I stand with you… these fools sit back and say the players are greedy and you think these owners aren’t… none of you should be complaining about the guy that is
    Your commish is making 42 mil a year in Goodell… he gets booed every year yet you cry about one players contract with the Lions?!? Really?

  78. So many Lions “fans” criticizing Megatron for his statements and retirement. The man sacrificed his body and health for a team that has never and will never go anywhere. Its a shame but no wonder that a team with one of the greatest RBs and greatest WRs in NFL history barely sniffed the playoffs. How much better did the team get with the cash they recouped from Johnson? The team never came close to replacing an icon, Sanders; and will never replace Megatron.
    Good Luck WATCHING the playoffs this season, “FANS”!

  79. They only took back a SMALL portion for cap purposes, not even all that they were ENTITLED to…and this is how he reacts? I appreciate the on-field memories CJ, but you need to stop talking as you are changing the perception of humility that the Detroit fans really liked about you. He made a ton from the team, endorsements, he’s financially savvy in post-retirement by all accounts, so this is a pride thing, plain and simple.

  80. I’m a fan of another team but I always had a liking for the Lions and cheer for them. I have to say I miss watching Calvin play and what he brought to the game. With that said I have a lot of empathy for the Detroit fans about him walking away from football when and how he did. It’s too bad that it happened, as it seems that the team hasn’t been the same since he left. I really cannot blame them for whatever animosity exists here.

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