Shocking news was released Sunday evening when ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Detroit Lions superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson has informed his team he plans to retire.
Johnson, who grew up in Newnan, was a star at Georgia Tech and has been one of the best receivers in the NFL throughout his nine-year career. According to the ESPN.com report, Johnson is the Lions’ all-time leader in receptions (731) and receiving yards (11,619).
Johnson, who turned 30 at the end of September, cited lingering pain from injuries that would make it difficult to return for the 2016 season. But Johnson played all 16 games in 2015, catching 88 balls for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns. It wasn’t a career year by any means, but he was still a very strong receiver for the Lions.
And that’s exactly why the Atlanta Falcons need to be absolutely sure Johnson is serious about this retirement before they let him ride off into the sunset.
(Also read: Andruw Jones to retire soon, per reports)
The Falcons could use the services of a declining star like Johnson as a No. 2 receiver to take some attention away from Julio Jones. Johnson is a local guy, and he may benefit from being close to his family as he plays out a few more years of a career that’s clearly on the back end.
If there’s one thing general manager Thomas Dimitroff has done well in Atlanta, it’s balancing the salary cap. OverTheCap.com projects the Falcons to be $17.9 million under the salary cap for the 2016 season, so there’s money to go get him if he’ll take a pay cut. The Lions would have owed him nearly $16 million in 2016, according to Pro Football Talk.
Let’s face it – the NFL is an absolutely brutal league. I’d bet half the players in the league are contemplating retirement right now, after four months of extremely physical football. Sure, Johnson may be serious about retirement, but we’ll see if he’s still saying the same thing in May when those lingering injuries have disappeared.
If Johnson is leaving open even the smallest window to return for the 2016 season, the Falcons need to be the first in line to court him, because this could be a huge addition for a franchise that’s trending in the right direction.
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