ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Calvin Johnson will suit up at Ford Field on Sunday afternoon to face the San Francisco 49ers. Even he, though, is not sure whether or not it will be his final time playing at home for the franchise.
“I don’t know,” Johnson said. “I don’t know.”
There are a lot of questions about the future of Johnson – the face of the franchise since he was drafted in 2007 – in Detroit beyond this season. While he recorded his sixth straight 1,000-yard season already and has played in every game this season, his production has waned in comparison to previous seasons.
And perhaps more importantly when it comes to his future, he has a cap hit of $24.088 million in 2016, including a base salary of $15.95 million. If the Lions were to get rid of Johnson, they would save $11.1 million in cap space.
Johnson is under contract for four more seasons in Detroit, with no guaranteed money remaining. Asked if he would take a pay cut to stay with the Lions, Johnson said, “We’ll consider those things when or if they happen.”
But what to do with Johnson will be one of the biggest questions facing Detroit’s next general manager – and other than deciding on the fate of head coach Jim Caldwell, will potentially be one of the first decisions to be made.
Johnson said the message he would give the next general manager is as “simple as 'win.' Get a team here that can compete year-in and year-out, you know, for a playoff spot.”
He said he believes the Lions have the makings of that team, but he’s only made the playoffs twice in nine seasons in Detroit. He has put together seven 1,000-yard seasons and holds almost every significant franchise receiving record.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford said “it’s tough” if Johnson were not with him next season and that he’s enjoyed playing with him and will continue to do so as long as he can.
Johnson said he hasn’t thought about whether or not this will be his last home game with the franchise that drafted him No. 2 overall in the 2007 draft or whether it’ll be his last time playing with the Lions at Ford Field, where his favorite memory was setting the NFL’s single-season receiving record in 2012.
“Whether it is or whether it’s not, just going to go out there and going to try and leave a great impression on our home field being the last game at home to carry over to next year,” Johnson said. “Just leaving out here with a win in our last game at home this year, that’s the big part of it.”