Report: Calvin Johnson turned down Lions’ offer of $500,000 a year for 28 hours of work

Philadelphia Eagles v Detroit Lions
Getty Images

Calvin Johnson, the Lions wide receiver who is being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, has been at odds with his former team since they exercised their right to force him to pay back $1.6 million of his signing bonus when he retired while still under contract. And a recent offer from the Lions didn’t make Johnson feel any better.

According Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions sent Johnson a proposal to pay back the $1.6 million by paying him $500,000 a year for three years in exchange for Johnson doing 28 hours a year of work for the team, plus a one-time donation of $100,000 to Johnson’s foundation.

Johnson indicated that what he wants is simply to get back the $1.6 million he paid the Lions.

“I mean, it wasn’t what I paid back, put it like that. . . . So they’re not serious,” Johnson said. “That’s all.”

Johnson said it “didn’t help” that the Lions fired a team employee who is friends with Johnson because the employee provided documents to Johnson regarding the team’s offer. Johnson says the employee was just trying to smooth things over between the two sides.

The work the Lions wanted from Johnson would have entailed various promotional appearances, including five hours on the day the Lions plan to retire Johnson’s No. 81 jersey.

According to the report, the Lions wouldn’t be able to just fork over the money to Johnson without requiring promotional appearances or some other work from him, because the league audits teams’ payments to former players to ensure teams aren’t circumventing the salary cap.

So it appears that the Lions think they’ve made the most generous offer to Johnson that league rules will allow, while Johnson thinks that’s not sufficient. And so it’s not clear that the Lions’ relationship with one of their greatest players can be mended.

70 responses to “Report: Calvin Johnson turned down Lions’ offer of $500,000 a year for 28 hours of work

  1. I’m generally a pro-player anti-team guy, but damn Calvin. Way to lose all the high ground in this battle by turning that down.

  2. They made a reasonable offer, which included him being PAID to attend a pregame ceremony where they add his name and jersey number to the team’s Ring of Honor, but Calvin said No. At this point, the Lions should just move on. Let him remain salty for the remainder of his days.

  3. I’m siding with Johnson. The Lions suck .. from top to bottom . There is a reason why Barry Sanders retired in his prime.

    Johnson is by far the best receiver in franchise history.. they should sign him to a 1 year 1.6m fully GD deal and cut him the same day.

  4. It speaks volumes about the Detroit Lions organization when Barry Sanders prematurely retired at 30 after gaining over 1400 yards the previous season. Barry had a few more seasons left in the tank,but ultimately chose to retire. Detroit Lions sued him for for his $5 mill signing bonus. Calvin Johnson was treated the exact same way after he retired from the Lions. Some things never change.

  5. I’m sure that with Calvin this has gone way beyond the money – I think it’s a principle thing with him, and probably always has been. He gave his all for the Lions for a number of years, as arguably the best receiver in the league, and when he decided to hang’em up they didn’t do the classy thing and say thanks for all you’ve done for us and wish him well – they went after him. And now they say they’ll give him back the money, but he’ll have to work for it. If I’m the Lions, I’d give him back the money – a pretty paltry amount in today’s NFL – and look at it like it’s a cheap price to pay for some good PR among the fan base, as well as a chance to start mending bridges with one of the best players to ever wear the Lion on the helmet.

  6. I nearly always side with players in disputes against teams. This would be one of the exceptions.

  7. As a lions fan, Calvin until you brew some of the bitter out of you, you can just stay away from the team. Your legacy is in Honolulu blue you can’t rewrite history. So perhaps in a decade or two you’ll feel differently. In the mean time a very wealthy man bitching about a slice of cake he had to give back, even if he feels in the right seems unseemly this far down the line to me.

  8. Good for him for not giving in. Nice to see a MAN stand up for what he believes in instead of rolling over and saying you are forgiven.

  9. When Michael Jordan retired, the Bulls paid him his full salary. Theres ways that you deal with your elite players. The Lions have let this thing fester in public over 1.6 million, chump change for the Billionaire who owns the team. There’s a reason that the Lions have stunk for the last 25 years. Incompetent, cheapskate ownership.

  10. Lions go after 1.6 million when he retired well before the start of the season, yet the Colts let Luck keep $25 million for sabotaging the team by quitting 2 weeks before the season. And there are people out there who call Irsay a bad owner , what a joke. Why don’t you use this as a blatant comparison for future babble

  11. Calvin’s legacy as a football player is about as good as it gets and won’t change. His legacy as a person is still being written, and this particular chapter doesn’t look too good.

  12. Can’t think of any player former or current that wants to be associated with the Detroit Lions organization. Barry Sanders hasn’t been that high on them either. They don’t seem to be a landing spot for high profile free agents or good head coaches. Maybe time for new ownership.

  13. The one thing I remember the most about Calvin was him playing injured (at the end of his career) and he was still the best and most exciting player on the field.

    The Lion’s disrespected him at the end, but I’d like to have seen them work it out. Bridges shouldn’t have been burned. The Colts did something similar with P. Manning… at the end of the day Teams are about the $$$. The relationship is employer/employee. Manning got it, and got his revenge without destroying the memories. Calvin doesn’t get it.

  14. 84 hours to earn back $1.5 mil that you previously took (and they asked for back, correctly). Plus we’ll true you up by donating $100k to your foundation. I only made it through a couple years of calculus and finance, but that sounds like a good deal.
    These players want all money up front, then often don’t want to work for it a couple years later (the Dolphins CB, etc.). Broken record with these guys. CJ must have invested well as he doesn’t need a job paying him about $18k/hour.

  15. Something’s not right if they fired a guy who provided Johnson with that info. Like maybe the only reason they went through with the offer is because it had already gone public?

  16. people seem to forget the real reason he retired was the Lions refused to let him go play with Princess Rogers and his fudgepackers;

    that’s the real why Calvin is so upset with them, but the Lions would’ve been even bigger fools to let him walk out the door without a shred of compensation to go play for their division arch-rivals, of all teams;

    believe me, had the Lions done that nobody would be talking about a paltry $1.6M..they’d be rightfully laughing their assets off a new ownership Forrest Gump dumb and so Murphy’s Law unlucky as William Clay Ford;

  17. If I’m trying to see things from Calvin’s side, I would guess that the Lions may have misled him about the true nature of the opioids team docs were loading him up with so he could play at an elite level even while banged up. If that’s the case, that’s a hard thing to put a price tag on. The issue seems to be trust more so than money

  18. 1.6 million is a drop in the pan for the Detroit Lions. It was petty for Detroit to take the money back in the first place so Johnson has a right to be irritated by it. As others have said, that’s two first ballot HOFs that want nothing to do with the Detroit Lions.

  19. So let me see if I understand this, Johnson retired and owed the Lions $1.6m in signing bonus. The Lions wanted their money back and made Johnson pay back what he owed. Now, the Lions are offering Johnson a means to remake that money for 28 hrs work PER year for 3 years but Johnson is insulted because he wants the team to just “give” him the money.

    Wow, that seems kinda greedy.

  20. Calvin didn’t just retire – he wanted the Lions to release him so he could play somewhere else. He’s allowed to retire- but the team is not required to release him for nothing and was allowed to collect money they had paid him in advance for work he didn’t do.

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. The team is trying to comply with league rules in a way to get him the money. If he’s too arrogant and bitter to accept – that’s on him

  21. therealraider says:
    August 7, 2021 at 3:49 pm
    I’m siding with Johnson. The Lions suck .. from top to bottom . There is a reason why Barry Sanders retired in his prime.

    Johnson is by far the best receiver in franchise history.. they should sign him to a 1 year 1.6m fully GD deal and cut him the same day.
    —————————————————————————————————-
    Lions suck, but Johnson had no problem signing his contract extension with the team that made him the highest paid receiver in the league.

  22. ishudbgm says:
    August 7, 2021 at 4:19 pm
    Can’t think of any player former or current that wants to be associated with the Detroit Lions organization. Barry Sanders hasn’t been that high on them either. They don’t seem to be a landing spot for high profile free agents or good head coaches. Maybe time for new ownership.
    ——————————————————————————————
    You are wrong . Barry Sanders has been the public face of the Lions at NFL media events for the last few years . Chris Spielman now works in the front office . The Lions also have a very active team alumni group that appears at team events . Bottom line the only guy who seems to have a problem is Megawhiner . He made $110M in 9 yrs in Detroit . If he didn’t retire he would have made close to $200M . He signed the deal in 2012 . How many other $200M deals have been handed out in the NFL since ? The Lions if anything way overpaid him considering what other top players were being paid then . Johnson is wrong to act like he was mistreated .

  23. “So it appears that the Lions think they’ve made the most generous offer to Johnson that league rules will allow, while Johnson thinks that’s not sufficient. And so it’s not clear that the Lions’ relationship with one of their greatest players can be mended.”
    —————
    Except that’s not true at all to say that’s the most generous they could offer. The Packers had offered more to keep Favre retired and if the Lions wanted they could offer him a 2 million dollar appearance fee for just his jersey retirement rather than trying to drag the payments out over 3 years and asking for more services to be rendered for the cash

  24. If that was the offer, why would it be an issue if it was leaked by the guy?

    Unless it wasnt the final offer and it was leaked. In which case if the guy was trying to bring both sides closer together, why leak it?

  25. First off he is owed more than that! Interest

    They forced his retirement just like they did to Barry. That is enough for me. Team sucks and won’t even get draft capital and go after his money? Hell no never make up with them.

  26. So What? They did what they did and he did what he did. Each had their reasons. Most of us would probably not understand the reasonings of each if we knew the full story. My GUESS is the whole situation goes much deeper than what is in this post.

  27. To anyone siding with Calvin on this, if you sign an agreement with a home contractor and they ask for 50% down…..and they just decide they don’t want to do the work, you’re telling me you’re cool with them just keeping your money?

  28. Why do the Lions care about this guy? Forget about him and keep your dignity. The organization will be much better off.

  29. I love that people side with the Lions… when have they proved to be smart or trustworthy?

  30. If history is any indicator, he would do a really good job and still wouldn’t make the Lions any better.

  31. The top 1% of wage earners have an average of a little over $1 million in the bank according to a page on the CNBC website (2018 numbers). That’s after earning and saving for years. Calvin Johnson would rather stay mad and walk away from a lot more than that in exchange for very little effort being expected from him. Sorry not sorry Calvin.

  32. when CJ’s back was messed up and he could barely walk, he said Mike Martz told him to do wind sprints. If you’ve ever had a bad disc, you know how painful it is to even put socks on in the morning. The Mike Martz episode just shows the caliber of imbeciles and bums that Johnson had to deal with during his tenure. I’m sure he could tell some stories.

  33. You signed the deal. Received advance salary payments in the form of bonus. You retired. You owe that money back. This is not complicated.

    Regards,

    Andy L. in Indianapolis

  34. Calvin makes a ton of money on the side with memorabilia stuff. He’s not hurting. At this point he’s just trying to damage the Lions brand. Jerk.

  35. The Lions are worth over $2 billion dollars…$1.6 million is pennies to them. Everyone is better off if they just pay him back his money,

    However, this is just one reason why the Lions have never won the NFC North and haven’t won a division title since the 90’s.

  36. You can’t mend fences with someone who doesn’t want the fence mended. The Lions messed up pretty bad by taking a business first approach with a future hall of famer and they aren’t over-extending the olive branch here either. That said, both sides suck here. Both sides need this to be behind them and both sides, mostly Megatron though, are working pretty hard to avoid a resolution and if anything are only making this rift deeper. Grow up.

  37. Dear Mr. Megatron:

    Your new 3 point plan: Accept the offer. Take the money. Send an imposter in your stead.

  38. The problem is that once they pay him the money, he still isn’t going to stop complaining about it. They should just tell him to take a hike and get on with it.

  39. kissbillsrings says:
    August 7, 2021 at 3:58 pm
    Just don’t retire his number….
    —————————————

    They should have never given him the number anyway. #81 should have been retired after Hall of Famer Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane wore it.

  40. Just turn the page on your losing past and try to focus on a winning future. Calvin Johnson represents years of losing. What could this guy possibly contribute to the organization? I mean, $500K for 28 hours of work? That just sounds like more of the losing mentality. Try to act like winners for a change.

  41. JaminJake says:
    August 7, 2021 at 5:29 pm
    1.6 million is a drop in the pan for the Detroit Lions. It was petty for Detroit to take the money back in the first place so Johnson has a right to be irritated by it. As others have said, that’s two first ballot HOFs that want nothing to do with the Detroit Lions.
    —————————————————————————————————-
    Perhaps one day you pay someone $100 to mow your yard. They show up and only now the front and leave. Should they be irritated if you ask them to come back and now the back yard, or give some money back?

  42. millenheir says:
    August 7, 2021 at 3:36 pm
    ford motor company can probably figure out a legal way to get johnson 1.6 mil

    —-

    The lions are not owned by Ford Motor Company.

  43. I mean…you signed a contract…took the bonus for the full time and quit early…if you have an integrity and character at all, you wouldnt expect to be paid for something you didnt fully fulfill. you used to be very likeable Calvin…now you are very annoying

  44. So Lions made Calvin pay back 1.6 million when he retired and 10 years later they want to pay him back by making work for it probably in the terms of promoting the franchise that made a HOF pay back 1.6 million. I can get why Calvin turned it down.

  45. Change his nickname from Megatron to MegaMillenial because my man wants money without putting it the work.

  46. I can appreciate having principles. These pro athletes are in such rarified air, financially, that they often dont think of all those struggling fans. $1.5mm for 84 days of work! Most fans won’t earn that in a lifetime, and this guy just dismisses it (and the likely apology that comes with it). This is similar to the athlete that retires rather than plan one more year for $5mm. They just don’t understand how good they have it. Why not accept the money and then work for FREE, and donate 100% to several needy causes that fly under the radar and really need the money.
    Very disappointing…

  47. I would have countered with 40 hours for 2 million. Then, when Detroit declines it makes them look cheap and difficult to work with.

  48. Take a deep dive and actually listen to Calvins story from his interviews last few years. The Lions couldn’t have cared less about his overall health but his concussions they would try and cover up so he could play who cares its just a little brain damage no big deal you still can run and catch. The last season he played theirs a game where he got another concussion and literally blacked out after and didn’t remember even leaving the stadium making the trip back to MI.

  49. People are clearly missing the fact that he doesn’t want ANY association with the team. It’s not just about the money, it’s about the principle.

  50. Lions look miserly no matter what. Johnson never said boo about the team as a player and I’m sure the organization could’ve saved face and avoided this going public. Clawing back a bonus and then suggesting he should work it off is incredibly tacky and unsurprisingly blew up in management’s face. If there were any other decent players on the roster from the last 40 years there might be a larger sample size but as it stands this is how they treat their best employees and i’m guessing it’s no secret why everyone with options stays away.

  51. As much as the first paragraph of this article is trying to make the Lions look like the good guy here, they aren’t. The point as I understand it is for them to pay the money back and for Calvin to not have to provide additional work, which is what they are asking. They are trying to ensure that they get something out of the deal. I don’t care what anyone says, Calvin outworked that contract. The first thing he said after signing it was he can’t wait to go to work. And that is exactly what he did, breaking the single season receiving yard record that stood for decades, that SAME season he signed, bringing positive attention to the Lions and something for the fans to cheer for. I don’t think this has as much to do with the money. I think there also must have been things said and I think it started with Rod Wood, that set it all off. I also don’t buy the excuse that they can’t outright pay him back because of fear of an NFL audit to ensure they are not trying to circumvent the salary cap. Well, are they trying to circumvent the salary cap or making right a wrong to a player. It’s an audit, you get to provide an explanation for your actions, the reason you did something. The Lions? More like the LIE-ONS.

  52. Always wondered who was right and wrong in this story. Sure looks like the Lions were in the right. Like the story says, there isn’t a mechanism to give him the money without some sort of work involved, or teams would do this to escape the cap. The Lions can just shut it down at this point, as a fan I don’t feel like they need to pursue it any further. We have bigger wide receiver issues to deal with.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.