Calvin Johnson hasn't made an official announcement yet, but ESPN.com's Adam Schefter reported Sunday the Detroit Lions wide receiver spoke to his family, as well as Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, about his intention to retire this offseason.
"Regarding today's ESPN report, we stand by our statement issued on Jan. 6 regarding Calvin," the Lions said, per team writer Tim Twentyman.
"We obviously have profound respect for Calvin and certainly understand and appreciate his decision to give proper thought and consideration to his football future,” the team said at the time, per Twentyman. The Georgia Tech product also released a statement Jan. 6 telling fans he was "currently evaluating options for my future."
If this is the end for the 30-year-old Johnson, he'll leave with five Pro Bowl appearances and three first-team All-Pro honors to his name, and his nine seasons will make him a surefire Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible.
Schefter added the Lions are hopeful Johnson will play at least another season, but a source said, "He's pretty content with his decision."
On Monday, Bleacher Report's Jason Cole reported the Lions hope Johnson will change his mind about retirement and agree to restructure his contract:
Football Outsiders' Cian Fahey is still a bit skeptical fans have seen the last of Megatron on an NFL field:
I'll buy the Calvin Johnson retirement when it's official and when there's not seven months before the next season.— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) January 31, 2016
Johnson's retirement wouldn't pack quite the same kind of punch as when Barry Sanders suddenly ended his career.
Like Sanders, though, Johnson would retire with plenty left in the tank from a playing perspective. He broke the 1,000-yard mark for the sixth year in a row in 2015, catching 88 passes for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns. His numbers did point to an overall decline, with his 13.8 yards per reception the lowest average of his career and his 75.9 yards per game his lowest since 2010, when Stafford played three games.
CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli pictured the reactions of every NFL cornerback when they realize they might not have to cover Johnson ever again:
When you’re an NFL cornerback and you see on the ESPN crawl that Calvin Johnson is retiring. pic.twitter.com/qHzdVbU4gI— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) January 31, 2016
Whenever he does hang up his cleats, Johnson will go down as the greatest wideout in Lions history. Dianna Marie Russini of ESPN noted how his name is all over the team's record books:
Calvin Johnson is Detroit's all-time leader in receptions (731) receiving yards (11,619) receiving TD (83) & receiving yards per game (86.1)— Dianna Marie Russini (@diannaESPN) January 31, 2016
Given the way he was noncommittal about his future, Detroit likely planned for the possibility of him retiring. His departure would free up some cap space, since he's due $67.7 million between 2016 and 2019. According to Pro Football Talk, the team would also have the right to recoup the remaining $3.2 million from his signing bonus.
The Lions would likely expect wideout Golden Tate to take on a larger role in the offense next season, while tight end Eric Ebron may be asked to help more in the passing game as well.
At the very least, the franchise can start looking at options at wideout this offseason, whether it's signing Alshon Jeffery in free agency or using the 16th overall pick in the 2016 draft on one of the best collegiate wide receivers.