Johnson: It’d be ‘lovely’ to finish career with Lions

CATCH: Detroit Tigers Lions receiver Calvin Johnson makes a catch earlier this season. (Detroit Free Press photo)

CATCH: Detroit Tigers Lions receiver Calvin Johnson makes a catch earlier this season. (Detroit Free Press photo)

DETROIT — The next Detroit Lions general manager has a critical decision to make when it comes to Calvin Johnson, but the All-Pro receiver said if he has his way he’ll retire with the team that drafted him.

“That’d be lovely,” Johnson said Thursday.

After nine seasons in Detroit, Johnson’s future with the Lions is uncertain beyond the final three games of the regular season.

He’s the Lions’ all-time leader in virtually every receiving category, but at 30 years old, his numbers are in decline for a third straight season, he’s dealt with a myriad of health problems in recent years and next fall he’s due to carry one of the highest salary cap figures in the NFL.

The Lions owe Johnson a $15.95 million base salary next season and Johnson has a cap charge of just over $24 million, numbers no longer commensurate with his production on the field.

The team can save more than $11 million in cap space if it cuts Johnson.

With a new GM a few weeks away from being hired and perhaps a new coach to follow, Johnson said he hasn’t given much thought to his future.

“I’ll think about it more when the time comes,” Johnson said. “If that time comes, whatever happens, happens. But not now. We still have our same coaches and we’re going to continue moving forward and all I can worry about right now is the game plan that we have.”

Johnson leads the Lions with 981 yards receiving and seven touchdowns on 71 catches this year, but his production has slipped in recent years due to age and health.

He missed two games in 2013 with a knee injury that eventually required surgery, three more last year with a high ankle sprain, and did not practice Thursday because of an ankle injury that’s lingered since midseason.

Asked about his healthy Thursday, Johnson, who’s expected to play in Monday’s game against the New Orleans Saints, said, “I’m feeling alright. I’ll leave it at that.”

Once one of the NFL’s top deep threats, Johnson has turned into more of a possession receiver this year.

He’s averaging a career-low 13.8 yards per catch and was held to one reception in last week’s loss to the St. Louis Rams.

Johnson, who’s had at least one catch in every game he’s played, said he knew that streak was close to ending as last week’s game went on. He caught his lone pass late in the fourth quarter to help set up the Lions’ second touchdown.

“I mean, you know,’ Johnson said. “You and everybody else knows.”

Quarterback Matthew Stafford said there was not a conscious effort to get Johnson the ball late in the game, and he said Johnson’s lack of involvement was due in part to a gameplan that called for him to get rid of the ball quickly to offset the Rams’ ferocious pass rush.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Johnson remains one of the best receivers in the game, as he’s shown at times this year with three touchdowns in a Thanksgiving win over the Philadelphia Eagles and his lone 100-yard game in Week 6 against the Chicago Bears.

“The seasons not over yet,” Caldwell said. “He won’t get to, obviously, the same number (of 100-yard games that he’s had in the past), but I do think he still changes the game. People play him differently. They double cover him, they do a lot of different things to handle him, which I think you probably didn’t see as much of a creative coverage as you see now.”

avatar

Posted by Tribune News Services

Leave a Reply