Detroit Lions have made it known that they intend to discuss a long-term contract extension with WR Calvin Johnson, and rightfully so. Johnson put up some ridiculous numbers in 2011 and was one of the main reasons that Matthew Stafford was able to pass for over 5000 yards in his first full season in the NFL.
Pro Football Talks Mike Florio reports that the team’s decision to address Johnson’s contract has more to do with his cap figure than their desire to address his contract.
“Johnson’s cap number for 2012, according to a source with knowledge of the contract, exceeds $21 million,” writes Florio. “That figure comes from a $14 million base salary, a $4.5 million roster bonus due on March 14, and slightly more than $2.5 million in allocations from past bonuses payments.”
Negotiating a long-term deal would allow them to free up some much need cap space in hopes of retaining players like DE Cliff Avril, MLB Stephen Tulloch and OT Jeff Backus. The problem for the Lions is that Johnson has all the leverage in this situation. The Lions have to lower his cap number but he’s already making $21 million this season and could make up to $25.2 million year if they have to franchise him! Add in the fact that he’s coming off of one of the best seasons imaginable, and the Lions could be forced to break the bank in the coming years.
No team has been impacted by the previous rookie contracts more than Lions. Johnson, Stafford and Ndamukong Suh have all been taken in the top-two picks just before the slot limits were established. This could really have a large impact on their finances in the coming years if they’re not able to get it sorted out in the coming years.