It's official: Lions announce that Calvin Johnson has retired
It's official: Calvin Johnson has retired after a stellar nine-year career. The Lions made the announcement on Tuesday morning.
There was the requisite hedging -- the team president said several weeks ago that Megatron hadn't made up his mind -- but now we know for certain: Johnson has played his last NFL game.
Calvin Johnson, in his own words. Johnson issued a statement shortly after the team announced his retirement.
“Let me begin by apologizing for making this announcement via a statement and not in person," he said, via the Lions' website. "While I truly respect the significance of this, those who know me best will understand and not be surprised that I choose not to have a press conference for this announcement.
"After much prayer, thought and discussion with loved ones, I have made the difficult decision to retire from the Lions and pro football. I have played my last game of football. Let me assure you that this was not an easy or hasty decision. As I stated, I, along with those closest to me, have put a lot of time, deliberation and prayer into this decision and I truly am at peace with it.
“I also want you to know that I have the utmost respect and admiration for the game of football. It has provided so much for me and my family and I will be forever grateful to the game. With the reality of my decision, I realize there are a lot of people I would like to thank. I must start with my family – thank you for all your love and support."
You can read the entire statement here.
Johnson was a transcendent talent. He was the second-overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, and easily one of the best decisions former Lions general manager Matt Millen ever made. Johnson had at least 1,100 receiving yards seven times, and finished just 36 yards shy of 2,000 receiving yards in 2012. For his career, he had 731 receptions for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns. He was also among According to Football Outsiders' WR efficiency metric, Johnson finished in the top-10 among al pass catchers on six occasions, and ranked first in 2011 and 2012.
Still, despite Johnson's prodigious skills, the Lions only made the playoffs twice during his career, losing both times.
The move frees up some money. Johnson signed a seven-year, $132 million deal in 2012, and he would have had a base salary of $15.95 million in 2016. His cap hit would have been $24 million. The Lions get $11.1 million in cap relief from Johnson's retirement, and the team announced that, with respect to Johnson's contract, that those “matters were settled to the satisfaction of the parties.”
The Lions now have an obvious need at wide receiver. The team holds the No. 16 pick in next month's draft and three of five CBSSports.com draft experts have Detroit taking Ole Miss wideout Laquon Treadwell.
Dane Brugler describes Treadwell as "one of the best skill players in this draft due to his ball skills and play strength at only 20 years old."
Jared Dubin adds: "Nobody is replacing Calvin Johnson. But Treadwell is damn good himself, and the Lions need some threat beyond Golden Tate and their running backs in the passing game. Treadwell's size and body control should make him a good complement."
We still don't know what a catch is. It all started in 2011, with the "Calvin Johnson rule," a phrase we all became familiar with when what appeared like an obvious touchdown reception was instead ruled an incompletion because Johnson didn't "complete the process" of making a catch. And five seasons later, what constitutes a catch remains a mystery. Here's Johnson's former teammate, Golden Tate, hauling in a "touchdown pass" last October.
Except Tate didn't haul in anything ... and yet the touchdown stood.
"I thought I understood the rule," Johnson said at the time. "I don't think anybody does now."
There's always baseball. And we don't mean that in the "Hey, remember that time Michael Jordan played baseball and he was awful?"
Calvin Johnson has been spotted taking batting practice over the years and his swing is silky smooth. Here he is in 2012 hitting dongs with the Tigers:
"I played all the way up to senior in high school," Johnson said at the time. "But football kind of took over at that point."
A scout who saw Johnson play in high school said he hit the ball as far as anyone he's ever scouted. But there was little question that Johnson's baseball career was not going to last longer than his final game at Sandy Creek High in Tyrone, Ga. Johnson was considered the best wide receiver prospect in the country and arguably the top football recruit at any position in 2004....
“I thought he was Jermaine Dye, but he was so raw at the plate. It was tough,” the scout said. “There were a lot of swings and misses, but if he connected, he hit the ball as hard as anyone I ever scouted. But he would be a two-year rookie ball guy. So clearly he was a better football player. He was way ahead as a football guy.”
Johnson will be missed. When there were reports that Megatron might retire, teammates and opponents took to Twitter to honor him.
Next stop: Canton and the Hall of Fame.
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