Wide receiver Calvin Johnson has informed the Detroit Lions that he plans to retire, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.
Johnson allegedly shared his decision with quarterback Matthew Stafford and linebacker Stephen Tulloch long before he told the team’s power structure. He informed head coach Jim Caldwell of his plan to retire the day after the conclusion of the 2015 season.
The Lions started this past season at 0-5. But they finished strong and ended the season at 7-9, boasting wins over division rivals Green Bay and Chicago. The team appeared in just two playoff games during Megatron’s tenure, losing both. But Johnson’s beaten body rather than his beaten team ranks as the foremost reason for his decision.
In nine seasons, Johnson re-wrote the Lions’ receiving record book. He caught 731 balls for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns over the course of his career. Like the franchise’s greatest back, its greatest receiver leaves the game with gas remaining in the tank. He also departs with a whole lot of money on the table. His base salary, which does not include $8 million more against the cap for bonus money already collected, approaches $16 million for the coming league year. Johnson’s contract, which expires in 2020, likely faced a restructuring if he had decided to play for a tenth season.
The Lions, understandably, want to give Johnson time to reconsider. The franchise released a brief statement on Sunday pointing to an earlier statement, which read: “We obviously have profound respect for Calvin and certainly understand and appreciate his decision to give proper thought and consideration to his football future.”
Johnson caught 88 passes for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns in 2015. Putting football in his past likely makes Detroit’s football future dimmer.