Lions' Quinn: No talk of reworking Johnson's contract
Indianapolis — If Calvin Johnson plays for the Lions in 2016, he’ll have a salary cap hit of $24 million, but general manager Bob Quinn said Wednesday the team has not yet discussed the possibility of altering his contract.
Quinn addressed reporters at the NFL combine Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium. In the 13-minute interview, he discussed a variety of topics, but was tight-lipped on just about every topic.
Naturally, the first handful of questions were about Johnson, who’s considering retirement after nine stellar seasons with the Lions.
“I did speak to Calvin,” said Quinn, who hadn’t spoken to him as of a few weeks ago. “I’m not going to go into any details about what we talked about, and there is no update on his status as of right now.”
Health concerns led Johnson to tell some of his friends he might retire before the 2016. He acknowledged the possibility in a statement in early January, but hasn’t discussed it publicly.
Lions president Rod Wood, who watched Quinn’s interview Wednesday, has spoken with Johnson several times since the end of the season. He said on Detroit Sports 105.1 (WMGC-FM) last week that Johnson had not yet informed the Lions of his decision, and Quinn said Wednesday he doesn’t know when one will come.
“I don’t have any expectations,” Quinn said. “We had a good conversation. He didn’t tell me if he was leaning one way or the other. We’re giving him time to make that decision.”
Of course, Johnson’s decision to retire or return won’t be the end of this saga. If he retires, the Lions could try to recoup the remaining $3.5 million on his signing bonus.
If Johnson plays, the Lions could try to convince him to take a pay cut. He has a $16 million base salary in 2016, which is nearly $3 million more than any other receiver in the NFL. After some past restructures, his cap his is $24 million.
After a season in which Johnson had his worst yards-per-catch average (13.8), he seemingly wouldn’t be worthy of being the top-paid receiver moving forward. But, because the Lions already have more than $30 million cap space, they might be able to afford to pay his current salary.
“We haven’t even gotten to that point yet,” Quinn said of changing Johnson’s contract. “That’s something that, if that does come down the road, we may talk about it, we may not. We haven’t even broached that topic yet, internally or externally.”
The team did, however, discuss the idea of putting a deadline on Johnson’s decision, but Quinn said he, Wood and coach Jim Caldwell decided it’d be best to give Johnson as much time as he needed despite how his retirement could impact the team’s plans this offseason.
“It obviously affects it because of the salary he has, so that’s something that’s going to take into effect what kind of plans we can do, how flexible we can be with the type of players that we’re going to look for to add in free agency,” Quinn said. “That’s all part of the puzzle. My job is to put that puzzle together.”
Free agency begins on March 9, and if Johnson retires, the Lions will have about $11 million more cap space.