The Detroit Lions face the opening of free agency without any clarity about Calvin Johnson‘s future several weeks after admitting retirement was an option.
NFL free agency had its soft open today with the Detroit Lions and the other 31 clubs able to start negotiating with agents for whose contracts expired at the end of last season. The Lions got off to a fast start with reports surfacing that that team had expressed interest in guard J.R. Sweezy and safety George Iloka.
To this point they haven’t been linked to any free agent wide receivers but it may be that they are looking for a decision from Calvin Johnson before moving on with their plans for the position.
It has been about two months since reports surfaced that retirement was an option for Calvin Johnson. A subsequent report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter indicated that Calvin had decided to retire but agreed to take more time to decide out of respect for head coach Jim Caldwell. Here we are at the start of free agency and still no final word from Calvin.
According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions, who have said they won’t put a timetable on a decision, are starting to lean on Johnson for a decision:
"The Detroit Lions have so far shied away from giving Calvin Johnson a deadline to make his decision on retirement, but with free agency fast approaching, the team is pushing to get an answer soon.The Lions, in conversations with the representatives of various players across the league, have told people that they hope to know in the next 24 hours what Johnson’s plans are for 2016."
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio circulated a theory (then later mentioned that a theory was circulating, hmm…) that Calvin was slow-playing the situation in hopes that the Lions would release him. The reason for that would be to free himself of the Lions if he ever decided he did in fact want to play some more.
That theory has not been echoed by other reports and was shot down by Birkett:
"Johnson’s confidants angrily disputed that notion, and others close to Johnson have insisted over the past two months that Johnson’s only motive for considering retirement is his health"
Even if it was true, there is little motivation for the Lions to lose that game of chicken. That would be a big hit in the PR department should Calvin ever suit up for another team and the Lions have ample salary cap space to conduct their offseason business while waiting for Johnson to make up his mind.
The way this has dragged out has many fans yearning for resolution one way or another and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Lions felt the same way. While they may be pushing for a decision, it is not clear what they would do if one does not come.