The Detroit Lions are trying to remain patient with Calvin Johnson. The wide receiver made headlines when he released a statement that hinted towards retirement and now the franchise is in limbo wondering if their leading playmaker plans to return to the league. While Johnson's future is up in the air even if he does opt to come back, the Lions would like to know where his head is at before free agency begins.
General manager Bob Quinn told the media in his introductory press conference that the franchise was not planning on rushing Johnson into a decision regarding his future. They wanted him to take his time and make the move best for him and his family. However, now he might be singing a different tune. According to David Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions need a response from Johnson before free agency begins. That way the team knows what their salary cap situation and how much money they have to spend on improvements.
Terry Foster of CBS Detroit, there is a chance that Johnson comes back to the Lions and does not retire, but only if he gets more time off during the season. Foster believes Johnson would like to have less practice time in order to keep his body healthy and fresh. If the franchise agrees to that idea, they will likely force Johnson into a pay cut. The receiver is set to be a $24 million cap hit in 2016 and the Lions simply cannot retain that. The two sides would have to come to a mutual agreement to make the situation work out.
So what happens if Johnson does not return? The Lions are left with Golden Tate, TJ Jones and question marks. They could try and draft his replacement. According to Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com, the Lions are taking a look at several options including Braxton Miller while at the Senior Bowl. Miller's stock is rising as he continues to impress during practices. Laquon Treadwell or Josh Doctson could be options as well. They would pair nicely with Tate while being a young player the Lions can develop. There is also free agency with options like Jermaine Kearse, Travis Benjamin and Rishard Matthews.
According to Rothstein, the Lions are also eyeing quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl to backup and potentially replace Matthew Stafford. The Lions would not address that need until a later round as Kevin Hogan, Dak Prescott and Jake Coker have all met with team officials. All three quarterbacks are viewed as developmental players that could be stashed behind Stafford and used at a later date. They could eventually move into a starting role with Stafford's contract expires.