About seventeen years ago, a superstar who had just finished his age 30 season and who had spent his entire NFL career with the Detroit Lions informed the team of his intent to retire, shocking the league. Barry Sanders was just two seasons removed from a co-MVP season when he decided to retire shortly before the Lions' 1999 training camp. Apparently, history is repeating itself.
According to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter, Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson has chosen to retire from football. Johnson reportedly has been planning this since before the 2015 season and told two teammates, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and linebacker Stephen Tulloch, of his plans prior to week one. Johnson also is said to have informed Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell on Monday after week 17.
Johnson is the NFL's single-season leader in receiving yards, setting that record with 1,964 in 2012. For his career, he has caught 731 passes for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns. He sits 27th all-time in NFL history in receiving yards and 22nd in receiving touchdowns. In addition, his 86.1 receiving yards per game rank second in NFL history, behind only Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons.
Johnson's statistics against the Green Bay Packers,tell a fascinating story. In 16 games, he has 15 touchdowns and 1,409 yards, an average of 88.1 per game. However, he has caught fewer than 50% of the passes thrown his way during that span, just 90 of 184 targets.
Johnson will turn 31 on September 29th and he has missed just nine games in his nine-year career.
The Lions will actually get some significant salary cap relief from Johnson's retirement. His contract, which runs through 2019, has a salary cap charge of about $24 million in 2016. According to Overthecap.com, retiring would leave a $13 million dead money charge on Detroit's cap, a savings of about $11 million.