As important as the NFL Combine is for scouting potential draft picks, it's just as important for negotiating with the agents of players that need a new deal. For the Detroit Lions, the combine is especially important for the negotiating aspect this year, as they have several players in need of a new deal or an extension.
The player most in need of an extension is wide receiver Calvin Johnson. He has a year left on his deal, but because the cap number is so big, the Lions would like to put a new deal together. Not only would this ensure that Johnson remains with the Lions for years to come, but it would also free up some cap space for free agency this year.
According to Dave Birkett, the Lions will try to move a step closer to working out an extension with Johnson by meeting with his agent, Bus Cook, on Saturday. Birkett caught up with Cook in Indianapolis today, and here's what he had to say about the negotiations:
"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."
It would be huge for the Lions to get an extension worked out before March 13, which is when free agency begins. As Martin Mayhew talked about this morning, the Lions can afford Johnson's current cap hit, but a new deal would give them a lot more flexibility in terms of the salary cap.
"We can handle Calvin's numbers - we have to," Mayhew said Friday morning at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "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."
Mayhew also said that the negotiations with Johnson have been "progressing along." That, along with Cook's comments, gives me hope that something will be worked out here in the next couple of weeks. Not only would a new deal for Johnson make the Lions' cap situation much nicer, but locking up the best wide receiver in football to a long-term deal would also be nice. As Jim Schwartz said yesterday, making Johnson a Lion for life is what the team hopes to accomplish with a new deal.
"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."
The good news is that there is a lot of time for the Lions and Johnson to get something done in the sense that he still has a year on his contract. The other side of the coin is that getting something done sooner rather than later would be a big help to the Lions as free agency nears. I'm not sure what to expect out of the length of the negotiations given how big the contract will be, but here's to hoping this is something that gets taken care of soon.