According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, people at the Scouting Combine were openly wondering if Calvin Johnson announcing that he’s considering retirement was him just dragging his feet to get the Lions to cut him.
Florio mentions that the thinking here is that Johnson didn’t calculate the move and actually does not want to play next year. However, he may now realize that it would be better for him to retire as a free agent, rather than as a Lion, given that Detroit would no longer hold his rights if he unretired.
Another positive for Johnson being released is that the Lions couldn’t seek repayment of his $3.2 million signing bonus.
Johnson is scheduled to count $24 million against the Lions’ 2016 salary cap and represents one of the easiest sources of cap relief, so they would likely address his contract at some point, rather than carry that figure into free agency.
Florio wonders if Johnson may want to make a comeback with a division rival such as the Packers, Vikings, or Bears if he’s, in fact, released.
Last year, Fitzgerald agreed to renegotiated his seven-year $113 million contract and signed a two-year, $22 million deal with Arizona that was fully guaranteed included a no-trade clause.
Johnson, 30, is in the fourth year of his eight-year, $150.5 million contract that included $60 million guaranteed. He stands to make base salaries of $12.5 million (2015), $15.95 million (2016), $16.5 million (2017), $17 million (2018), and $18.25 million (2019).
In 2015, Johnson appeared in all 16 games and recorded 88 receptions for 1,214 yards receiving and nine touchdowns for the Lions. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the No. 5 receiver out of 119 qualifying players.
We’ll have more regarding Johnson’s future in the NFL as the news is available.