The Detroit Lions have done nothing to fix their relationship with Calvin Johnson. Does Johnson have a point when it comes to wanting his money back?
The Detroit Lions made news over the weekend once again for their strained relationship with wide receiver Calvin Johnson (also known by the nickname Megatron). Check out Dave Birkett’s article from the Detroit Free Press, but the gist of it was ‘give me back the signing bonus … that you made me pay back in the first place.’ Yes, it is as stupid as it sounds.
But not because Calvin shouldn’t get the money back – at least in one way or another. But more because the Detroit Lions have mishandled this situation just by taking the money back in the first place – if not for asking about the money the moment they heard Johnson was considering retirement.
Megatron is a future Pro Football Hall of Famer – and that is without question considering previous inductees. Team achievements are few and far between, but when it comes to individuals, Calvin and running back Barry Sanders represent the very best the team has to offer.
On Monday’s PFT Live, host Mike Florio had an interesting take on how things went down with the Detroit Lions and Calvin (06-03-19, “#1”):
"“I blame Johnson’s agent for this. Because I think the Lions were [going to] cut Calvin Johnson… I think he was [going to] be released because his cap number was [going] to  million dollars.”"
Basically, Florio’s point is that Megatron and his agent played this all wrong. If the Detroit Lions were forced to actually cut Calvin, then Johnson would not have been obligated to pay back anything. Florio believes that Megatron let the team off the hook (06-03-19, “#1”):
"“If [Calvin] had just said: ‘Well, I’ll be there. I’m ready to go.’ I think they would have just cut him … Somebody in the organization needs to acknowledge that and just give him the money back.”"
It blows my mind that the Detroit Lions would have considered cutting Johnson. I have my doubts because this fan base would have lost its mind. But, it really doesn’t matter.
If Calvin wants the money back, then just give him a job with the franchise. And start paying the money back any way that you can. Calvin is up for the Hall of Fame in 2021, and it is important that he and the team be on the same page when it comes to his eligibility.
There will be plenty of great opportunities for these two entities over the next half century. Between working directly for the team, the team sponsoring Megatron’s various camps/charities, and just the accomplishment of the Hall of Fame, there is plenty of money to be made for Johnson – and in the long run for the Lions franchise as well.
The biggest concern is how this looks for the team. Two of their greatest players retired early – yes, both Barry and Calvin had years left on their contracts – and they were then forced to pay back portions of their signing bonus. This is how the elite players are treated.
It doesn’t look right. The business argument of ‘you didn’t earn the full bonus because of your early retirement’ is very sound. But there has to be exceptions. With the right communication, the money could have been paid back, but Calvin could have started earning new money from the Lions the moment he retired. Everybody wins.
In the end, the Detroit Lions have plenty of good stories when it comes to being there for their players. Make Calvin Johnson another one of the good stories. Don’t let this feud continue – step up and fix it. It really isn’t that difficult.