The Detroit Lions made it a point to get star wide receiver Calvin Johnson signed as soon as the season came to an end. It took a lot longer than many figured it would, but Johnson did have a year remaining on his rookie contract, so the team wasn't in any immediate danger of losing him. They ended up signing Johnson for eight years - through 2019, which is a little different from the initial reports.
Initially, it was said that Johnson was signed to a seven-year extension, which would imply that Johnson would play out 2012 on his rookie deal, but Tim Twentyman cleared things up on Twitter:
Lets be clear that this is a new 8-year deal through 2019. Johnson will not play out last year of rookie deal.
That really does make sense, given just how productive Johnson is and the fact that his new deal is the richest in NFL history in regards to guaranteed dollars, with $60 million overshadowing the other marks handily. In getting so much guaranteed money, the Lions were able to give him less salary in 2012 so they can shift some cap around, saving around $9 million in space while still, as they put it: "paying the man."
Signing superstar receiver Calvin Johnson to a seven-year, $132 million extension was a win in more ways than one for the Detroit Lions: it saves the team $9 million in cap space, according to a report.
The Lions, who had previously had to maneuver numerous other contracts just to get under the cap in time for the start of the new league year, will benefit in the short term from the new flexibility created. Under his previous deal, Johnson was slated to have a cap hit near $20 million for the 2012 year.
The team will announce the extension for Johnson at a Wednesday afternoon press conference, and the deal will make him the richest wide receiver in league history. He was a 2011 All-Pro selection and the NFL's leader in receiving yards with 1,681.
The recently-signed seven-year contract extension for Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson will be worth $132 million, including$60 million in guaranteed money, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. That overall contract value marks the most expensive deal for a receiver in NFL history, and eclipses the fat extension given to Larry Fitzgerald by the Cardinals last offseason by over $10 million.
The deal will be officially announced later Wednesday at a press conference, but locking Johnson up is a major move for the franchise. He'll now be in a Lions uniform through the 2019 season, and the deal will likely afford the Lions some short term salary cap flexibility.
Johnson was picked with the number two overall selection by the Lions in the 2007 draft out of Georgia Tech.
Johnson, who was due to become a free agent after the 2012 season, led the NFL with 1,681 receiving yards in 2011, and added 96 catches and 16 touchdowns on his way to an All-Pro selection. The former number two overall pick has career totals of 366 receptions, 5,872 yards and 49 scores in his five years as a pro, all of which have been with Detroit.
The Lions reached the playoffs in 2011 for the first time in 12 seasons after finishing a turnaround season with a 10-6 record.
While NFL free agency doesn't officially begin until next month, and Calvin Johnson will not be a free agent, the Lions are working hard to get one of the best wide receivers locked up for the foreseeable future. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Megatron's agent will meet with the Lions on Saturday, hoping to hammer out a long-term deal:
"We’ll see where it goes, but we’ll certainly work toward trying to get it done and get it done quickly," Cook said. "Hopefully, we can get something done in the next few weeks."
Johnson is entering his final year of his rookie contract, which will hit the team's cap at about $22.5 million. The Lions are making headway in extending Johnson, but they also have to consider maintaining financial flexibility while doing so:
"We can handle Calvin's numbers - we have to," Mayhew said Friday morning at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianpolis. "Obviously, we have a lot more flexibility having more cap room, so we have a desire to get that done. But we have a way to handle his number."
That number ultimately may very well make him the highest paid receiver in the NFL, but Lions head coach Jim Schwartz wants everyone to understand that it's not as simple as throwing a lot of money at Johnson despite both sides wanting the same end result:
"We still have a long way to go before we're in that situation, but Calvin is important to us," Schwartz said. "We talked about a couple of guys being in there that are important to us. Calvin is obviously important to us, but it's not as easy as just saying we want him around, and he wants to be around. There's a lot more to it. Hopefully, when it's all said and done he'll be a Lion for life."
For more on the Lions, head over to SB Nation's Detroit Lions blog, Pride Of Detroit.