A month ago at the Detroit Lions’ Taste of the Lions event, team president Rod Wood said mending the franchise’s relationship with former receiver Calvin Johnson was a high priority for the team.
“I had it on my agenda today to talk internally about some things to re-approach him about getting back involved (with the team),” Wood said. “That’s on the agenda this year, reaching out to him.”
On Saturday, Johnson laid it out pretty plainly on what the team needs to do to get the All-Pro receiver back in their good graces.
“The only way they’re going to get me back is they put that money back in my pocket,” Johnson told the Detroit Free Press ono Saturday at his local football camp. “Nah, you don’t do that. I don’t care what they say. They can put it back, then they can have me back. That’s the bottom line.”
The dispute over the two sides is over Johnson’s signing bonus. When the receiver retired in 2016, just four years after signing a seven-year extension, the team asked for him to return at least $1 million of the $3.2 million prorated signing bonus they were entitled to have. Though by the book, the Lions were well within their rights to claim that money, some franchises look down upon touching a players’ signing bonus in cases of an early contract break, especially when that player is such a hallmark of the franchise. Teams do occasionally ask for signing bonuses back—the Seahawks are currently suing Malik McDowell for that exact reason. However, you rarely see it with a player as important to the franchise as Johnson was.
The Lions have not offered any sort of resolution to Johnson. According to the former Lions receiver, he hasn’t talked to Wood directly. But now the cards are on the table. Your move, Lions.