By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8
Megatron. For those who love the game, that is how we’ll always remember Calvin Johnson and his talented, explosive time with the Detroit Lions. Oh, and for helping us to understand that we really don’t know what a catch is…
Drafted #2 overall in 2007 by the Lions, Johnson immediately became an elite receiver, holding both team and NFL records that still stand and making six trips to the Pro Bowl.
In March of 2012, he signed an eight-year extension for a cool $132 million, with $60 million guaranteed. He then went on to set the NFL record for most receiving yards in a single season at 1,964. Clearly, getting paid motivated him to continue producing on the field.
And then, in a move that not only shocked fans and is still talked about today, he announced his retirement in March of 2016 due to concerns for his long-term health if he continued to play the game of professional football.
On This Date: 5 years ago today, Calvin Johnson went FULL Megatron. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/4lukOHXZfz
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 27, 2018
As part of his early retirement, the Lions asked Johnson to repay a little over $1 million in bonus money, their reason being he didn’t fulfill his entire contract. They did the same thing when Barry Sanders retired, but the $5.5 million he had to return came as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Lions. After going to arbitration and having a ruling in the Lions favor, Sanders returned the money.
I’m team Lions in this whole Calvin Johnson saga. Easy thing to do is to scream SOL and rip the Lions right now. But it was simply a legal, contractual move for their salary cap. I get that it looks petty. But at the end of the day, it was just a business decision by Lions.
— Mike Sullivan (@MikeSullivan) June 3, 2019
The argument on Johnson’s side is that he meant so much to the team and that asking for the money back was more a Pride thing to the Lions than an actual need for the money back.
The Lions make about $350M a year. The fact that they took back a $1M signing bonus from Calvin Johnson (who was the only reason to watch the Lions for years) is pathetic
— DVE (@DetvrsEverybody) June 1, 2019
Now, however, the topic has come back up because the Lions would like Johnson to work for them again. No, not on the field, although quarterback Matthew Stafford has truly suffered for needing a #1 receiver since Johnson left.
They are looking for an ambassador of some sort to help them in fan relations and to help their image league-wide. Frankly, it’s getting harder and harder for teams like the Lions to attract big-time free agents without egregiously overpaying them. They are hoping that Johnson can sell current players on coming to Detroit.
Calvin’s response? I want my money back.
Yes, that’s right – before he’ll have meaningful conversations with the Lions about any future relationship, he wants back the money he repaid them in 2012.
— Freep Sports (@freepsports) June 1, 2019
Fan reaction has been mixed, but most seem to remember how great he was on the field, wish he was helping their beleaguered team win games now, and frankly don’t think a million bucks is that big a deal for an NFL team to pay.
Jersey sales, All Pros, Pro Bowls, relevancy, Prime Time games, national coverage, etc. etc.
Plus, I can’t tell you how many young fans have told us they became #Lions fans specifically because of Calvin Johnson.
Let’s not play the playoff wins argument for a WR please. https://t.co/JzVUHFljRR
— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) June 3, 2019
As for me, being a Browns fan I understand how hard it is to attract talented players when your weather isn’t great and the team has been less than stellar for too many years. Buffalo Bill fans can also relate, I’m sure.
To have someone of Johnson’s caliber speaking on behalf of the team, work to recruit players to join up and perhaps, more importantly, get fans fired up again definitely has a higher upside than the “measly” million they would be giving away. I say cut the man a check and then get to negotiating on an actual deal to put him back to work for the NFL.
Talk football with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8