One of the greatest receivers to play the game officially called it quits Sunday.
Calvin Johnson, at the age of 30, decided to walk away from the game of football with his health intact, making him the second shocking retirement in Detroit’s not so exciting football history.
In 1999, Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders also decided to leave the game in the midst of his prime at age 30, leaving many to wonder what could have been had Barry stayed in the league longer, a question many will now consider with Johnson should he stick to his decision.
Johnson only appeared in the postseason twice in his nine-year career with the Detroit Lions. Despite his record-breaking numbers in nearly every receiver category, his front office failed to build a team with quality players, and rather than compete for Super Bowls, Johnson saw his team competing for a top pick in each year’s NFL Draft, a sobering reality that could rob any player of his competitive spirit and force them to consider Megatron’s current reality.
But with Johnson still very much able to perform at a high-level in the league – finishing last season with 1,214 yards and 9 touchdowns on 88 receptions – could he be setting himself up for a deal with a Super Bowl contender in the near future?
In 2007, the New England Patriots traded for a 30-year-old Randy Moss, who transformed the already deadly Patriots offense into one of the greatest teams in NFL history while allowing Moss to return to Pro Bowl form – catching 98 passes for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns, the latter being an NFL record previously held by Jerry Rice. It was that same year that the Patriots went 16-0 during the regular season and were eventually upset by the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42.
Could Calvin Johnson offer a similar narrative for the Patriots and vice-versa?
According to SB Nation, there would have never been a situation where the Lions and Johnson parted ways without the star receiver retiring. His contract is too big of a hit for teams to absorb in a trade, being the third-largest cap hit in 2015 at $20.6 million and increasing to $24 million in 2016, and there was no logical way the team was going to cut him outright. So he did what any sensible football player would do at his age and predicament; he announced his retirement.
Once Johnson submits his retirement papers to the NFL, the Lions must then decide whether or not to release him from his current contract to avoid picking it up should Johnson backtrack on his decision and decide to return to football. With a new general manager in place next season for Detroit, it’s likely that they’ll cut ties with Johnson upon his retirement submission to the NFL which will allow for more cap room to bring in new prospects and start anew. At that point, Johnson would become a “free agent” and eligible to sign with any team he desires so long as they’re interested.
As mentioned earlier, Johnson had another great statistical campaign this past season with a team that finished with a 7-9 record and a quarterback that is no where near elite. At 6’5, 240 lbs, Johnson’s talents are far from fading, and the idea of pairing him alongside Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman should allow Brady a continued defiance of his aging career.
In fact, the thought of putting any deep-threat receiver with Tom Brady as your quarterback is one Patriots’ fans have been dreaming about since Moss’ departure in 2010.
For most of his career, Calvin Johnson has had to shoulder a heavy workload in an attempt to make his team somewhat competitive. Signing with the Patriots would allow him a chance at competing for a Super Bowl for however long Brady can go while allowing him to share the load with the arsenal of weapons that populates New England’s roster.
Another option would be for Megatron to sit out a year and rest any aches he feels his body needs to recover from, but seeing how well Brady played this year, and how resourceful he was all season with the limited weapons could entice Johnson to hop aboard this Patriots dynasty train before it reaches its terminus.
(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)