The continuing and expected decline of Calvin Johnson is putting the Detroit Lions in a tough spot considering the kind of money Megatron is going to be making in the next few years, which means he’s probably going to be asked to take a paycut under its famous name: Reworked contract.
Johnson is down to 71.4 yards per game off receptions, his lowest since 2009. Johnson averaged over 100 yards per receptions three years in a row from 2011 through 2013, and fell to 82.8 last season. It’s not just injuries. At 30, after almost nine seasons in the NFL, he’s simply no longer the kind of player he was up until two years ago, not to mention the Lions trying more and more to find more offensive options to help out Matthew Stafford with.
Johnson did break the 1000-yard mark this season for the 7th time in his career, and will probably finish somewhere between 1100 and 1200 yards with maybe even double digit touchdown numbers. Those are still very good numbers on a team with plenty of offensive problems and issues, without even getting into their coaching and front office problems. But Johnson, who once inked an 8-year, $132 million deal with the Lions and seemed worth every penny because of what he meant to the franchise, is no longer giving them what they’re paying for.
Not when his cap hit next season is going to be $24 million. And it’s $21 million in 2017, and $17 million in 2018, and $18.25 million in 2019. That’s a lot of money to give to someone who probably isn’t going to be as good, although the salary cap rising will make the deal look less and less bad with time. The thing is dead money. The Lions take a massive hit if they cut him before next season ($12.9 million) and it gets mellower before the 2017 season.
Will Johnson give them a discount, so the Lions can go ahead and slightly rebuilt or tweak this team? It’ll probably be up for debate. Like any wise player, he isn’t giving anyone answers right now. Maybe we’ll hear some trade rumors as well, and talks about how Johnson might be playing his final games as a Lions player in the next two games. For now, the Lions need to think how they want to approach a complicated situation.