All Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson released a joint statement with the Detroit Lions this week indicating that he is mulling his future and will make a decision shortly on what he is going to do. There has been speculation all year that with Johnson’s monster cap number next year he may be playing his last season in Detroit. That speculation increased when general manager Martin Mayhew was fired earlier in the season. The thought was that a new general manager would want the added cap space from a receiver that is not producing at a value consummate of his pay. The talk was that he could be cut outright to save space, that he could be traded for the cap space, or that he could be asked to restructure his deal to a more cap friendly deal like Larry Fitzgerald did in Arizona. That is why it came as a bit of a surprise when Johnson’s announcement seemed to indicate, without directly saying so, that he was contemplating retirement.
There are a few schools of thought on this issue. The first is that Johnson made this announcement due to health concerns. He has been banged up badly in his career and struggles to stay healthy every year. This is the worst part of the season for football players because they just finished the full grind of a season in the NFL and are beat up both mentally and physically. Johnson may feel this way now but may change his mind come training camp time. The second school of thought is that this might be a power play to force the Lions to keep Jim Caldwell as coach. He stated that he would make a decision soon but did not indicate exactly when. While this is not Calvin Johnson‘s type of move, it is still possible he does not want to battle health issues with another new offense and a complete rebuild. The last school of thought here, which is my personal belief, is that Calvin Johnson is sending a message to candidates for the general manager position. For the past month if not longer, all we hear is how this may be Johnson’s last season in Detroit. We also hear how the new general manager has a tough decision to make with Johnson once hired. Maybe Johnson is telling candidates that the decision will be easier than they think. He could be telling them that he is open to retirement if the new leader does not want him in Detroit. Maybe he is telling the new general manager that instead of making an unpopular move that could sour the fan base by releasing a legend to save cap, he can just walk away from football.
By making the vague announcement that Johnson made, he gives the future general manager of the Detroit Lions options. He can make his first move to talk to Johnson and decide if Johnson is in the plans of the team moving forward and if he is, Johnson announces he will play for another season. If he is not in the future plans, Johnson simply announces his retirement.