Detroit Lions Free Agency Tracker: Calvin Johnson Signing a Great Move

Jay WierengaCorrespondent IMarch 14, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07:   Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints during their 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that the Detroit Lions have signed Calvin Johnson to a contract extension worth $132 million over seven years.

I have to admit, I heard this secondhand from Chris Mannix, who was filling in for Dan Patrick this morning.

Mannix seemed to think it was a ridiculous move and that the Lions were playing around with "Monopoly money."

There is no doubt that some of you casual football fans are thinking the same thing, and even some of the diehard fans that don't pay attention to the Lions might be scratching their heads at this move.

But rest assured, fans—this was the right move for Detroit.

Forget for a second that the Lions play in an economically ravaged state and city.

Forget for a second that wide receiver has been an historically chaotic position to invest heavily in.

And forget for a second that the Lions are just now tasting the magical elixir called winning.

This was the right move for all of the above reasons and then some.

The Lions, heading into this season, were getting ready to pay Johnson $21 million this season alone, including miscellaneous bonuses and his base salary.

That, paired with other contracts on the books, left the Lions about $11 million over the salary cap before re-signing some of their most valuable free agents, such as Stephen Tulloch, Jeff Backus and Eric Wright.

Sure, Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh and Nate Burleson helped matters out by restructuring their deals this week, but that still only left the Lions with about $5 million in cap space.

Now all of the details have yet to be released, but it would not be unrealistic to assume that Johnson's cap figure should be cut in half this season.

That gives the Lions enough money to re-sign their free agents, tender their unrestricted free agents, sign whatever rookies they draft next month and even sign a couple free agents of their own.

This is a talented team, but they need to improve their offensive line and their defensive secondary, and they need to add at least one veteran running back.

This move should allow them to enter the season as strong as they did last year, if not stronger.

Now look at Johnson.

He not only is your atypical wide receiver in that the lets his numbers do the talking for him, but he has also been remarkably healthy and has improved nearly every year.

He is the most dominant wide receiver in the game, and he is coming off of a career season.

He also is only 26 and just entering his prime.

Given his work ethic, internal motivation and rapport with his young quarterback, he should put up video-game numbers during the heart of this contract.

Also, his physique adds to his value.

Sure, Johnson has some of the best speed and quickness in the game. But even when he loses a step in his early 30s, he still will have a 6'5", 240-pound frame. He should be able to convert himself into a possession receiver and still have more value than 90 percent of wideouts in the league.

Big receivers generally age well, from Keyshawn Johnson to Mushin Muhammed to Terrell Owens.

All of those receivers were productive well into their 30s, right where Johnson's contract will deposit him at.

More than anything else, this makes Johnson happy, and a happy franchise receiver is a luxury most teams want.

For these reasons and so many others, this is a great move for Detroit.