Detroit Lions: Mike Thomas

The numbers are huge, mostly because the best receiver in the game is among them. When you look at the cap and cash numbers as a position for the Detroit Lions' wide receivers, it appears the team is spending an extreme amount at the position.

In some cases, the team was. But with Calvin Johnson on the roster and bringing in at least $8 million a year against the cap for every year since 2010, the numbers will look a little bit inflated. The question is not whether Johnson was worth the money -- he was and remains to be worth it -- but whether the complementary receivers were worth their cost.

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson
Joe Sargent/Getty ImagesCalvin Johnson has counted at least $8 million against the salary cap every year since 2010.
In looking at the wide receiver numbers since 2010, the team has been pretty consistent in how much it has allotted to the cap at the position, mostly because of the consistency of Johnson. Other than him, the players have fluctuated and some of Detroit’s misses on picks and free agents become accentuated.

So here is a look at Detroit’s cap situation with receivers over the past five seasons, including who is under contract for the 2014 season. Every other year is based on the players on the team at the end of the year.

Prior cap studies: Running back
Total numbers: $20,916,227 (cap value); 32.61 percent (offensive cap percentage); 15.20 percent (total cap percentage); $19,139,409 (cash value).

By players:

  • Calvin Johnson: $13,058 million (cap value); 20.36 percent (offensive cap); 9.49 percent (total cap).
  • Golden Tate: $3.1 million (cap value); 4.83 percent (offensive cap); 2.25 percent (total cap).
  • Ryan Broyles: $1,003,227 (cap value); 1.56 percent (offensive cap); .73 percent (total cap).
  • Kris Durham: $645,000 (cap value); 1.01 percent (offensive cap); .47 percent (total cap).
  • Kevin Ogletree: $635,000 (cap value); .99 percent (offensive cap); .46 percent (total cap).
  • Jeremy Ross: $570,000 (cap value); .89 percent (offensive cap); .41 percent (total cap).
  • Naaman Roosevelt: $570,000 (cap value); .89 percent (offensive cap); .41 percent (total cap).
  • Patrick Edwards: $495,000 (cap value); .77 percent (offensive cap); .36 percent (total cap).
  • Cody Wilson: $420,000 (cap value); .65 percent (offensive cap); .31 percent (total cap).
  • Corey Fuller: $420,000 (cap value); .65 percent (offensive cap); .31 percent (total cap).
Total numbers: $15,101,501 (cap value); 25.49 percent (offensive cap); 14.43 (total cap); $29,017,042 (cash value).

By players:

  • Johnson: $8,774 million (cap value); 14.81 percent (offensive cap); 8.38 percent (total cap).
  • Nate Burleson: $4,031,641 (cap value); 6.81 percent (offensive cap); 3.85 percent (total cap).
  • Broyles: $841,448 (cap value); 1.42 percent (offensive cap); .80 percent(total cap).
  • Durham: $555,000 (cap value); .94 percent (offensive cap); .53 percent (total cap).
  • Ogletree: $546,765 (cap value); .92 percent (offensive cap); .52 percent (total cap).
  • Ross: $310,588 (cap value); .52 percent (offensive cap); .30 percent (total cap).
  • Micheal Spurlock: $42,059 (cap value); .07 percent (offensive cap); .04 percent (total cap). *only his second stint with Detroit in 2013.
Total numbers: $17,887,996 (cap value); 28.71 percent (offensive cap); 14.83 percent (total cap); $29,915,532 (cash value).

By players:

  • Johnson: $11,537,286 (cap value); 18.52 percent (offensive cap); 9.57 percent (total cap).
  • Burleson: $2,861,446 (cap value); 4.59 percent (offensive cap); 2.37 percent (total cap).
  • Titus Young: $1,041,624 (cap value); 1.67 percent (offensive cap); .86 percent (total cap).
  • Mike Thomas: $767,647 (cap value); 1.23 percent (offensive cap); .64 percent (total cap).
  • Broyles: $688,818 (cap value); 1.07 percent (offensive cap); .55 percent (total cap).
  • Kassim Osgood: $540,000 (cap value); .87 percent (offensive cap); .45 percent (total cap).
  • Brian Robiskie: $361,764 (cap value); .58 percent (offensive cap); .30 percent (total cap).
  • Durham: $109,411 (cap value); .18 percent (offensive cap); .09 percent (total cap).
Total numbers: $19,433,849 (cap value); 30.71 percent (offensive cap); 16.61 percent (total cap); $18,872,324 (cash value).

By players:

  • Johnson: $13,956,946 (cap value); 22.05 percent (offensive cap); 11.93 percent (total cap).
  • Burleson: $2,755,072 (cap value); 4.35 percent (offensive cap); 2.35 percent (total cap).
  • Young: $829,331 (cap value); 1.31 percent (offensive cap); .71 percent (total cap).
  • Stefan Logan (listed as a receiver): $742,500 (cap value); 1.17 percent (offensive cap); .63 percent (total cap).
  • Maurice Stovall: $575,000 (cap value); .91 percent (offensive cap); .49 percent (total cap).
  • Rashied Davis: $575,000 (cap value); .91 percent (offensive cap); .49 percent (total cap).
Total numbers: $20,589,676 (cap value); 28.24 percent (offensive cap); 18.03 percent (total cap); $23,163,235 (cash value).

By players:

  • Johnson: $11,136,108 (cap value); 15.28 (offensive cap); 9.75 (total cap).
  • Burleson: $5,325,000 (cap value); 7.30 percent (offensive cap); 4.66 percent (total cap).
  • Bryant Johnson: $3 million (cap value); 4.12 percent (offensive cap); 2.63 percent (total cap).
  • Derrick Williams: $585,333 (cap value); .80 percent (offensive cap); .51 percent (total cap).
  • Logan: $395,000 (cap value); .54 percent (offensive cap); .35 percent (total cap).
  • Brian Clark: $148,235 (cap value); .20 percent (offensive cap); .13 percent (total cap).
Along with the rest of the NFL, the Detroit Lions must reduce their roster to 75 players by Tuesday. They'll play their preseason finale Thursday at the Buffalo Bills and then cut their roster again to 53 players by Saturday. On the cusp of a busy week, both in the NFL and here on, let's review some of the biggest personnel issues the Lions have been working through this summer:

Right tackle/right guard
Seifert comment: Jason Fox started at right tackle and rookie Larry Warford at right guard in the presumably pivotal third preseason game, and that's the combination many of us thought would ultimately emerge from this competition. But the Lions haven't announced any winners, and coach Jim Schwartz said: "We have a lot of different options and a lot of guys that can potentially get the job done."

No. 2 receiver
Seifert comment: As we noted over the weekend, the Lions reportedly are making calls to see if they can upgrade here. That's understandable. Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles are both working in the slot position. Patrick Edwards hasn't done much in the preseason after being given a nice opportunity to earn the role. Journeyman Matt Willis has been more productive. Chaz Schilens and Mike Thomas have already been released.

Strong-side linebacker
Seifert comment: The Lions started off veteran Ashlee Palmer in this role and he has not relinquished it. Second-year players Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis have not mounted a serious challenge, and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has suggested Lewis might be better suited in the middle. Two recent veteran acquisitions, Rocky McIntosh and Chris White, seem targeted more for special teams roles.

Seifert comment: So far, it appears that the Lions' limited plan for Louis Delmas' camp participation has worked. Delmas looked healthy and active in 12 preseason snaps last week, and barring a flare-up of his knee condition, he is expected to start in Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings.

Seifert comment: Rookie Darius Slay had some predictably tough moments last week against Tom Brady, but there doesn't seem to be much reason to go back to veteran Ron Bartell. If anything, newly-signed Rashean Mathis will push for playing time, perhaps at nickel in competition with Bill Bentley.

Kick/Punt returner
Seifert comment: The Lions have gotten returns from five different players in preseason games. They're trying to decide whether to dedicate a roster spot for a returner or use a backup player to handle the job. To this point, none of the participants

Seifert comment: Once David Akers proved he was healthy, it was clear the job would be his. Havard Rugland has been a fun camp story, but it's hard to imagine the Lions finding a spot on their roster for him -- especially with punter Sam Martin kicking off. Akers has converted seven of eight field goals in the preseason.
On Friday, the Detroit Lions released Chaz Schilens, the veteran they signed just before training camp to hedge against the injury rehabilitation and depth issues among their receiver group. With Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles apparently healthy, and Patrick Edwards generating significant training camp buzz, questions about the position seemed to be allayed.

The Lions seemed so confident, in fact, that they had already released veteran Mike Thomas despite a $1 million guarantee in his 2013 contract.

Did those moves reflect confidence? Or did they suggest the Lions simply weren't satisfied with the makeup of the position? I'm beginning to wonder if it is the latter, a belief fortified by Jason La Canfora's report that that the Lions are making league-wide calls to check availability of starting-caliber receivers.

What exactly is going on here?

The first and arguably most important fact to remember is that Burleson and Broyles are both assigned primarily to the slot position, a new role for Burleson as he enters his 11th NFL season. (Thomas is also a natural slot receiver, but the personnel logjam there had him working mostly on the outside.)

With Burleson and Broyles working the slot, the Lions have been hoping that Edwards could lock down the outside spot opposite Calvin Johnson. Yet for all the glowing reports of his work in practice, Edwards hasn't done much in the first three preseason games. He has caught four passes for 16 yards, working mostly against first-team defenders, and in an instructive moment, he lost a battle for a ball in the end zone against New York Jets rookie cornerback Dee Milliner in the preseason opener.

If anything, Edwards has been matched by six-year veteran Matt Willis, a journeyman trying to make his third NFL team.

Johnson hasn't played much this preseason, accentuating these question marks. And we all know the Lions have a number of proven receiving threats at other positions -- from tailback Reggie Bush to tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler.

But despite it all, it is beginning to looks like they don't have a No. 2 receiver -- a hole that jumped out from their roster all offseason. With NFL roster cuts looming, the Lions might have a chance to do something about it this week.

Note: According to Tim Twentyman of the Lions' web site, the team released four more players Sunday morning and have five left to go to meet the NFL's requirement of 75 by Tuesday. Those released were: defensive end Ronnell Lewis, receiver Cody Wilson, cornerback Myron Lewis and safety Chris Hope. Lewis was a fourth-round draft pick last season but got only one snap on defense. Hope's release suggests the Lions are comfortable with the health of starters Louis Delmas (knee) and Glover Quin (hip).