Unlike Marshawn Lynch, Calvin Johnson has yet to release an official statement of retirement. While ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported the Detroit Lions receiver is calling it quits, there is a still a glimmer of hope he returns in 2016. However, the Lions cannot bank on the idea and must prepare to replace him which will cost the team in free agency. So who will be the heir to the Johnson thrown in Detroit?
According to Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com, the Lions will have at least $11 million more in cap space should Johnson officially retire. That means they can bring back a few veterans who were expected to be cap casualties including Joique Bell and Brandon Pettigrew. That does nothing to the now depleted receiver rotation that will consist of Golden Tate and TJ Jones. Tate will move into the No.1 slot, a role he is developing for, but outside of Jones the Lions are lacking in playmakers. Rothstein believes the team will spend some money to help Matthew Stafford out.
According to ESPN.com, either Marvin Jones or Jermaine Kearse will be the favorites to replace Johnson and neither will come cheap. Both Kearse and Jones have told the media that they have no plans of accepting a hometown discount in order to return to their respective teams. While they cannot command a deal like what Dez Bryant and Julio Jones signed, they are worth some money and will make sure they get it. The Lions cannot afford to cut corners when it comes to replacing Johnson. They need a guaranteed threat immediately and both Jones and Kearse fit that description.
The Lions could look to the draft for help as well. Laquon Treadwell, Will Fuller and Josh Doctson are some of the highest-rated players on the board and the Lions could make a play for one of them. Treadwell appears to be the most like Johnson in terms of build and production, but he could go in the first five picks leaving Detroit out of the mix. Fuller, Doctson or someone like Braxton Miller are no guarantees. A free agent would be better.
Tate is holding out hope that Johnson returns. According to sources, while Johnson has informed the coaching staff he plans to retire, head coach Jim Caldwell asked him to take some more time to think about the decision. Tate remains hopeful that his teammate comes back in 2016.
"I think he has a lot of juice in him, but I'm not Calvin Johnson," Tate said, via ESPN.com. "I can't tell you how he feels...I hope Calvin comes back. He makes me better. He makes the team better. He makes the city better."