DETROIT, MI – Calvin Johnson hasn’t made any form of official retirement announcement yet, but ESPN’s Adam Scheffer has reported that the Detroit Lions wide receiver and all-time NFL great spoke to his family and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell about his plan to likely retire this offseason.
If the 30-year-old hangs it up, he’ll have racked up five Pro Bowl appearances, three first-team All-Pro honors to his name, through nine seasons, almost guaranteeing a Hall of Fame induction once he becomes eligible.
Schefter added that the Lions are hopeful Johnson will play at least another season, but a source said, “He’s pretty content with his decision.”
Earlier in January, Lions QB Matthew Stafford said on the Mitch Albom Show, via ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein, that the prospect of Johnson retiring was real. The 30-year-old also released a statement on Jan. 6 telling fans he was “currently evaluating options for my future,” per Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website.
Johnson’s retirement wouldn’t quite pack the same kind of punch as when Barry Sanders suddenly ended his career.
Like Sanders, though, Johnson would retire with plenty left in the tank from a playing perspective. He broke the 1,000-yard mark for the sixth year in a row in 2015, catching 88 passes for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns. His numbers did point to an overall decline, with his 13.8 yards per reception the lowest average of his career and his 75.9 yards per game his lowest since 2010, when Stafford played three games.
Johnson has been plagued with injuries over the course of his career and while spending that career on a parental loser
Given hints towards the end of the season, Detroit likely planned for the possibility of him retiring. His departure would free up some cap space, since he’s due $67.7 million between 2016 and 2019. According to Pro Football Talk, the team would also have the right to recoup the remaining $3.2 million from his signing bonus.
The Lions would likely expect wideout Golden Tate to take on a larger role in the offense next year, while tight end Eric Ebron may be asked to help more in the passing game as well.
At the very least, the franchise can start looking at options at wideout this offseason, whether it’s signing Alshon Jeffery in free agency or using the 16th overall pick in the 2016 draft on one of the best collegiate wide receivers.
Lions fans and NFL fans in general have been critical of the organization for wasting NFL legends talent, most notably the great Barry Sanders, who spent his entire career there without being able to make an significant run into the playoffs or obtaining a ring.