Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Can the Detroit Lions Trade/Cut Calvin Johnson?
If you had told me last season that there would be legitimate sports writers actually positing that Calvin Johnson could be gone, I would have laughed and told you to get back on your meds. Yet here we are, six weeks into the season, and it’s an actual thing. Ignoring for a moment the on-field impact of trading or cutting the best receiver to ever play in Detroit (possibly anywhere) and sure-fire hall of famer, let’s take a moment to look at the financial impact.
Over the Cap and Spotrac both agree, cutting Calvin Johnson prior to 2016 is simply impossible. The team loses money in doing so, and not in the “Hey, there’s dead money” kind of way that exists for any player but in a way that means you actually have to PAY money to part ways with him. Except for instances with significant injury, like Chris Houston recently, any time there is a situation where a player costs more to cut than to keep, they are kept.
It’s even more insane if the Lions were to part ways with Johnson right now, costing more than 29 million to do so according to Spotrac. The prevailing thought, and you’ll see me mention this multiple times, is that you try to get SOMETHING for a player if you’re likely to lose them anyway. That is where trades come in.
Trades are enticing since there are draft picks involved and draft picks are exciting by themselves. There is still financial costs associated with trades, as the players don’t simply transfer everything to the new team. Calvin Johnson would cost EXACTLY THE SAME to trade as he would to cut. The Detroit Lions would end up one hall of famer short along with a healthy 20.9 million in cap penalties in 2015. If they were to try and trade Calvin now, the Lions would be so far over the cap that they’d be forced to cut a half dozen players just to get solvent again.
So it isn’t just “trade Calvin”, it’s trade Calvin, Levy, Tulloch, Ansah, Tate, Raiola, Sims, and others. It’s more manageable in 2016, with only 400k over keeping him to try and fix, but then the team is using only 80% of their total cap on players actually on their roster, one heck of a handicap.