The Detroit Lions Shouldn’t Rush To Replace Calvin Johnson

Photograph: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Photograph: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Lions have to be prepared to replace Calvin Johnson, but they shouldn’t rush to do so, as replacing him with Alshon Jeffery would be a mistake.

It’s still not certain the Detroit Lions will have to replace Calvin Johnson at all this offseason, but as more reports filter in that he’s been seriously contemplating his retirement for a while now, it’s looking more and more likely.

The Lions definitely need to have some contingency plans in place, but some plans are better than others. So while the Lions must be prepared for life after Megatron, they shouldn’t panic and rush to fill his spot.

Alshon Jeffery is a big, physical, downfield, playmaking wide receiver. So what’s wrong with him? Earlier in the offseason, I mentioned Jeffery as someone the Lions could consider signing (if he’s available), but the longer I think about it, the more I feel it’s a bad idea.

It’s no so much about what Jeffery is, as much as what he isn’t. There’s a slim-to-none chance that the Lions will be able to immediately Johnson’s production on the field. That being the case, they might as well look for a younger, cheaper (perhaps eventual) number one receiver.

More from Detroit Lions

At 26-years old next season, Jeffery is only nominally younger than Johnson at 30. The way the free agent market is this year, Jeffery is the marquee name at wide receiver, but it’s a very thin crop. Jeffery is the best of what’s available, but it’s almost by default as there’s just not much available.

As a result, if Jeffery makes it to free agency, he will be in line for a big payday. Simple supply and demand. If the Lions really want Jeffery they will have to pony up. While a contract for Jeffery won’t likely match the numbers of Megatron’s contract, it will still be costly, and that just doesn’t make sense for the Lions.

Why would the Lions want to replace Johnson with someone who is nominally younger and nominally cheaper? Not to mention, Jeffery isn’t any more durable than Johnson. Jeffery has already missed more games in his four year career due to injury, than Megatron has in more than double the time.

Jeffery’s onfield production is great, but he’s just not a good match for the Lions.

The Lions would be better served by signing a complementary (number two) receiver, for a significantly lesser price (Marvin Jones, Kamar Aiken, Mohamed Sanu), and letting Golden Tate have a season attempting to be the number one guy (he’s succeeded in that role for stretches). Then Detroit can spend a mid-round draft pick on a receiver (Josh Doctson, Rashard Higgins, Aaron Burbridge, Sterling Shepard) hoping he can develop into a star.

An alternative is to not sign any free agent receivers (neither stars nor complementary players). But that would probably mean the Lions spending an early round pick on one, and we all know how that’s gone in recent years (Ryan Broyles, Titus Young, Mike Williams, Charles Rogers).

The one receiving success story for Detroit during their recent draft history? Calvin Johnson. Like I said before, replacing Megatron will be no easy task. The Lions shouldn’t rush the process.

More from Detroit Jock City

The Lions could always just wait until next offseason to address the wide receiver position. Perhaps there will be more enticing free agent and draft prospects then. But I’m pretty sure Matthew Stafford won’t like that idea.