It’s March, andCalvin Johnson has still not officially announced that he is done playing football.
On Jan. 6, Johnson released a statement, saying, “Like many players at this stage of their career, I am currently evaluating options for my future. I would expect to have a decision regarding this matter in the not-too-distant future.”
On Feb. 1, ESPN’s Adam Schefterwrote: “Detroit Lionsstar receiver Calvin Johnson told his family and a close circle of friends before the past season that 2015-16 would be his final season in the NFL. He delivered the same message to coach Jim Caldwell the day after the regular season ended, sources told ESPN.
Caldwell told Johnson not to rush his decision and to take his time, sources told ESPN. Out of respect to Caldwell, Johnson agreed to do just that, according to sources.
The Lions have not given up hope that Johnson will change his mind, but one person who knows Johnson well said, “He’s pretty content with his decision.””
OK. So … what’s the hold-up?
The Lions surely want to resolve this situation soon as free agency cranks up. Detroit Free-Press writer Dave Birkett wrote Sunday:“The Lions appear to be planning for the six-time Pro Bowler’s departure and are expected to be involved in the free agent receiver market as they go about the unenviable task of trying to replace him.”
A source close to Johnson told Birkett that there is still “nothing to report” when it comes to Johnson’s decision.
New Lions GM Bob Quinn, who had been with the Patriots since 2000, isn’t likely to let the drama linger too much longer. Quinn may elect to cut Johnson – which would be music to Johnson’s ears if he does intend to play again. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio wrote on Feb. 27: “Some believe receiver Calvin Johnson is dragging his feet with the Lions so that the Lions will cut him …It’s the smartest possible play for Johnson or any other player with a prohibitive cap number who is thinking about walking away. With Johnson at $24 million for 2016, the Lions need Johnson to walk away — if he doesn’t, they could be sending him packing on March 9.”
If the Lions do “send him packing” this week, the Patriots would still be the most obvious landing spot for Johnson. Tom Brady, who just re-upped with the Pats through 2019 last week, has been in need of an upgrade at outside receiver for years now. The Pats cut Brandon LaFell last week.
As great as Brady still is, he’s not going to get any better as he enters his 40s. He needs all of his weapons to be top-notch, and Johnson certainly qualifies.
Quinn and the Lions would certainly want draft picks in return and the Patriots are hurting in that area due to the Deflategate docking of their 2016 first rounder. But most any team wouldgive up on the entire 2016 draft altogether to get a player of Johnson’s quality.
As for actual players Quinn would target on the Patriots, it’s highly unlikely he’d want one of Brady’s incumbent weapons in return. Detroit actually has solid options in the passing game beyond Johnson in slot guys Golden Tate andTheo Riddick, and tight end Eric Ebron – whosaw his statistics double from his rookie season of 2014 to 2015. If a deal is to be made between Detroit and New England, expect a defensive body to be headed Detroit’s way.