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.