The Lions confirmed Johnson filed his retirement papers Tuesday after months of speculation regarding his future.
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported Jan. 6 regarding Johnson's outlook for the future. He had been dealing with a nagging ankle injury that had caused him to miss a lot of practice over the past two seasons, and per Birkett, he had mentioned retirement to at least one former teammate.
The six-time Pro Bowler confirmed at the time he was having doubts about his future on the gridiron in a joint statement released with the Lions, per Tori Petry of the team's official website:
Trey Wingo of ESPN highlighted how durable Johnson has been over the years:
However banged up Megatron may have been, he hadn't ceased producing at an elite level and missed only nine games in his career. The 30-year-old had 731 receptions for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns as one of the best receivers of his generation.
But a bothersome element missing from his resume is a playoff victory—or even a legitimate chance at a championship.
The Lions went to the postseason only twice in Johnson's entire time with the franchise, which began when Detroit chose him second overall in the 2007 NFL draft. Given his consistent greatness and professionalism over the years, he probably deserved better.
With four years still remaining on a massive contract, per Spotrac, not only will Detroit be sad to lose Johnson, but he'll also be leaving a considerable amount of money on the table.
Johnson's retirement further clouds the Lions' future as well. Franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford hasn't shown the consistency Detroit has hoped for despite his elite arm talent, and he's leaned heavily on Johnson as his go-to target for years.
Golden Tate provides a solid receiving option for Stafford, but unless young tight end Eric Ebron morphs into a legitimate star soon, the Lions offense may be in serious trouble moving forward.
Their rushing attack ranked last this season and 28th the year before. If that doesn't improve soon, Stafford will be under even more pressure and scrutiny from a loyal fanbase still waiting for a stable, winning team.