With no definitive word whether Calvin Johnson will retire or return to the Detroit Lions, Mike Florio wonders if the sides are playing a game of chicken.
It has been almost two months since word got out that Calvin Johnson could be considering retirement and almost a month since it was reported that he had informed the team that he intended to do so. Yet, the Detroit Lions wait for official word.
It makes sense to allow for some time to be sure when making a decision of this magnitude but with free agency and the draft approaching, it would be nice for the Lions to have some closure. With no resolution and no apparent timetable by which to expect one, it’s open season for speculation as to what is really going on.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio entered the mix, speculating Calvin Johnson could be delaying a decision as a way of forcing the Lions to cut him. By retiring, the Lions would retain Johnson’s rights should he ever decide to return to football. If cut, he would be free to retire or immediately sign with any team he wants.
Florio discussed the topic in the video segment below.
It’s an interesting theory but it plays off the narrative that Calvin’s pondering of retirement stems from the fatigue of losing rather than the result of years of nagging injuries and the mounting toll the game has taken on his body.
Adam Schefter’s report last month noted that Calvin had informed family members that 2015 would be his final season before the season began. That means he had considered, perhaps even decided upon, retirement on the heels of a 10-win season and playoff berth. That seems damaging to the narrative that losing is the driving force behind a possible retirement, but if there is a game of chicken going on, it’s not one that Calvin Johnson should expect to win.
On the Lions side, there is no reason to force Calvin’s hand by cutting him. The team would take a massive PR hit with fans if they made the first move by releasing him, only to see him not retire and play with another team in 2016.
And while Johnson is scheduled to count $24 million against the team’s salary cap and releasing him would free $11 million to spend elsewhere, they have ample cap space available with Calvin still on the books. Current numbers have the Lions with more $33 million in cap money to spend, per Spotrac.
It might be a different story if the Lions’ ability to conduct offseason business was being held captive by Johnson’s contract but that isn’t the case.