The Detroit Lions are going through a transition phase in the 2016 offseason in terms of coaches and front office staff which has drawn into question several over-sized contracts on the pay roll. Both Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have seen their futures come into question understanding that the NFL is a business. The Lions could find it tough to retain both stars, but with Johnson hinting at an early exit, does that make Stafford safe from release?
Johnson shocked many when he released a statement earlier in the week hinting that retirement might be in his future. ESPN's Ed Werder confirms that Johnson is uncertain he wants to play again citing injuries and a frustration with the Lions' franchise as reasons for the doubt. Johnson has heard the rumors all season that he might be released thanks to his $15.96 million salary and $24 million cap hit. He told the media he was not certain what would happen as he was disappointed in the ending of the year.
"You never know, man," Johnson said, via ESPN.com. "If it is, though, you want to go out like that, you know, [with] wins. Unfortunately we weren't able to make the playoffs or anything like that, but have a great team effort, not just this game but this whole second half of the season, it was a good one, good deal."
Stafford was facing the same fate as Johnson as his contract extends through the 2017 season. However, according to the Detroit Free Press, Stafford is staying put with the team. With the star wide receiver potentially departing, there is no chance the Lions also let go of Stafford. The quarterback market is weak this year in terms of players ready to compete right away. The Lions will not let go of their starter especially with the improvement he showed. Former general manager Martin Mayhew denied Stafford was going anywhere mid-way through the year.
I mean this guy is a phenomenal talent," Mayhew said, via the Detroit Free Press. "You can go look at his production over the course of his career in some tough situations, having missed most of the first two seasons of his career. And his numbers are up there with the top guys who have ever played the game."
The new general manager could certainly have different feelings. They may want Stafford to take a pay cut, but he would be tough to replace if gone. There is no question the Lions will have a hard time replacing Johnson. Arguably the best at the position, Johnson is a talent that does not come along often. Detroit has Golden Tate still under contract. They could try and sweep up Alshon Jeffery. Travis Benjamin will be available as well. There is also Laquon Treadwell and Josh Doctson in the NFL Draft. None of them size up to what Johnson has done for Detroit, but the Lions might not have another choice but to take a chance on them.