According to a thorough report from Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Lions made a hard push to get soon-to-be Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson back in the good graces of the team before his official induction this weekend. Unfortunately for the Lions, Johnson turned it down.
The Free Press obtained a copy of the proposal to Johnson—which, Birkett said, was similar to the one that was submitted for league approval. Here are the details.
The documents, which were reviewed by the Free Press, detailed a three-year agreement that would pay Johnson $500,000 annually for appearance fees and have the Lions make a one-time payment of $100,000 to Johnson’s charity.
In Year 1 of the deal, Johnson would have been obligated to commit 28 hours to various Lions events, including a five-hour appearance at a game this fall when the team planned to induct his No. 81 jersey in their Pride of the Lions.
The money amounts here are significant. The Lions asked Johnson to recoup $1.6 million of his signing bonus when the wide receiver retired after the 2015 season. It was a move the Lions were within their rights to make, but it is an unwritten rule for several teams not to touch a player’s signing bonus, even upon a sudden retirement. The total amount paid in this deal to Johnson: $1.5 million over three years, and another $100,000 to his charity, or $1.6 million total.
Birkett talked to Johnson this week about the deal and why he turned it down. Even though the money amount being offered is the same as he returned—albeit over three years— Johnson appears to believe he’s entitled to more if he is going to come back to work for the team.
“I mean, it wasn’t what I paid back, put it like that,” Johnson said. “So they’re not serious. That’s all.”
Further complicating things is the fact that when someone within the Lions organization—a friend of Johnson’s—leaked their proposal to the receiver before it was reviewed by the league, the team promptly fired that employee, further upsetting Johnson.
It’s a sticky situation. The Lions are in a tough spot, because they can’t simply hand over $1.6 million to Johnson. A proposal needs to be reviewed and approved by the league to ensure it is not part of a ploy to evade salary cap rules. It would be difficult to give Johnson more money without requiring him to make additional appearances for the team, according to Birkett.
As for Johnson, it’s clear he still feels disrespected by some members inside that organization (see: Rod Wood). The one positive note from Birkett’s report? Johnson will apparently attend the Lions’ Hall-of-Fame party on Sunday, where Shelia Ford Hamp, among others in the Lions organization, is expected to attend.