New Patriots receiver Demaryius Thomas credits retired All-Pro Calvin Johnson as the reason he went to Georgia Tech to play college ball. Thomas was something of a Johnson clone with the Ramblin’ Wreck as they were both big receivers that dominated the competition in the ACC. They even spent one season together under Chan Gailey during 2006.
The two have remained close, which begs the question: Will Thomas approach Johnson about coming out of retirement?
It’s been a while since the Johnson comeback rumors were coming in hot, but the Patriots have always been one of the teams mentioned in possibly acquiring the former Lions great. In the fall of 2017, “multiple teams” were said to have contacted the Lions about compensation for getting Johnson to come out of retirement but nothing obviously ever came of it.
Johnson is now 33-years-old and hasn’t played since 2015. He has been asked time and again about a comeback in recent years and it seems like he’s done for good.
“I don’t [think so], man, because I get up from bed sometimes in the morning and I’m just like I shuffle across the ground because I can’t bend my ankles,” Johnson told the Detroit Free Press last summer. “That was my problem when I played. My ankles always stuck or swelled up. I can’t flex them. If you can’t flex your ankles you’re just running flat footed all of the time.”
Thomas was “very surprised” that Johnson retired when he did and still thinks Johnson could contribute greatly to an NFL team.
“He still can play,” Thomas told the Detroit Free Press. “He still is one of the top guys in the league. I was surprised [he retired] but that’s his decision and I’m going to support him because I’ve been around him a long time.”
Patriots receiver situation
Six years ago you could make the case that Thomas was the best receiver in football. In 2013 he caught 14 touchdowns from Peyton Manning and posted 92 catches for 1,430 yards. Those numbers are on par with the type of numbers Antonio Brown put up this past season for reference.
Thomas’ numbers have dropped off considerably since the middle portion of this decade due to the fact that he was catching passes from a broken down Manning and countless mediocre quarterbacks in Denver like Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. It also doesn’t help that he’s now on the wrong side of 30, at 31-years of age, and is coming off a torn Achilles.
It’s highly unlikely that Thomas winds up have a Randy Moss-level revitalization with Tom Brady in Foxborough. In fact it’s much more likely that the 6-foot-3 inch, 229-pounder has a Reggie Wayne or Chad Ochocinco-like career with the Pats.
Still, Thomas is absolutely worth taking a flier on – particularly when you see the way that Bill Belichick structured Thomas’ deal. According to The MMQB’s Albert Breer, Thomas’ contract is “heavy on ‘we’ll see’ type parameters.”
$150K to sign
$150 reporting bonus
$1.2 million base
$1.406 million in per game rosters
$750K for 60 catches
$750K for 800 yards
$750K for 1000 yards
$750K for 1200 yards
The Patriots just won the Super Bowl without a star-studded receiving corps and Belichick hasn’t really valued the position in quite some time. You could actually make the case now that Belichick – who always looks to set league trends and not follow them – places more value on the running back position than at wide receiver.
The Patriots top three projected receivers for next season - Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Thomas - all have major question marks.
Can Edelman keep doing his thing at age 33?
Will Gordon even be allowed to play, and if he does will he be able to play well?
And now, will Thomas even make the team?