The Calvin Johnson will-he or won’t-he retirement saga could be coming to a close.
A report from the Detroit Free Press on Monday said the Lions have started to indicate they hope for a decision from the star receiver soon. The Free Press reports that some within the Lions organization have said they are hoping to get a decision within the next 24 hours.
This makes sense since the new league year opens Wednesday at 4 p.m. and the Lions would be better positioned to attack free agency -- and the draft -- the sooner they know what their top receiving threat was planning for 2016.
All indications have been that Johnson is leaning toward retirement, and every person close to Johnson that has spoken publicly has said to take his retirement talk seriously, including Nate Burleson and Matthew Stafford. Not one person had given positive indications that Johnson has plans to return.
The Lions have said multiple times, including last month, that they were not going to give Johnson a deadline to make a decision on his future.
“That’s just the decision we made internally, to not put a deadline on Calvin,” general manager Bob Quinn said at the combine. “So that’s something we’ve talked about, myself, coach [Jim] Caldwell, Rod Wood.
“Just the way we’re going to go about business in terms of what Calvin’s decision may or may not be.”
If Johnson does not return to the Lions for 2016, the franchise will save $11.1 million against the cap. He is scheduled to have a cap charge of $24 million in 2016.
Quinn acknowledged at the combine that Johnson’s decision -- or lack of it if it came to that -- would alter how the team approached free agency. That was almost two weeks ago, though, and the legal negotiating period for teams to talk with unrestricted free agents is open.
So that could potentially be altering how the Lions feel about things with Johnson.
“It obviously affects [free agency] because of the salary that he has,” Quinn said. “So that’s something that’s going to take into effect what kind of plans that we can do, how flexible we can be with the type of players that we’re going to look forward to add in free agency.
“That’s all part of the puzzle. My job is to put that puzzle together.”
And the Lions are hoping they know what their biggest piece is going to do sooner rather than later.
Detroit is likely to address receiver between free agency and the draft no matter what Johnson decides. Marvin Jones and Jermaine Kearse could be options the franchise looks at in free agency, and the draft has multiple attractive receivers, including Laquon Treadwell, Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson, Will Fuller and Ohio State’s Michael Thomas.
Top receiver prospects in the draft understand there could be more pressure involved if they are brought in and expected to replace part of what Johnson has been able to do for the Lions.
Johnson holds almost every major Lions receiving record. He has 731 catches for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns. He set the NFL’s single-season receiving yardage mark in 2012 with 1,964 yards and had had 88 catches for 1,214 yards last season.