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Lions: Johnson cap charge reduced by $9M


Here is probably the most important detail in the fast-breaking news of receiver Calvin Johnson's monster contract extension: It will shave about $9 million off his 2012 salary cap number, according to the Lions' website.

That means Johnson's 2012 cap number will fall somewhere between $12 million and $13 million, a significant reduction from the $22 million hit the Lions were taking under the final year of his original rookie contract. It's enough to ensure the Lions can sign their draft class along with a couple of veteran free agents, one of which could well be middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch.

As whopping as the numbers in Johnson's deal are, the truth is Johnson probably could have asked for more. I'm not sure that I would call a $132 million deal, of which almost half is guaranteed, a "hometown discount." But Johnson had all of the leverage in this negotiation; had he done nothing, he would have earned $18 million in 2012 and then been eligible for a $26.4 million franchise tag in 2013 and a $31 million tag in 2014. Over three years, his annual salary would have averaged $25.6 million.

There was no way the Lions or any other team could afford such a huge cash or cap commitment, and Johnson knew that. In exchange for accepting a deal that averaged "only" $16.5 million per year, he received $60 million in guarantees.

That number blew away even the richest NFL players, but around the league, Johnson has received instant praise and well-wishes as the type of player and person who would merit such a deal.

Among them was a tweet from Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson: "Calvin Johnson! Brother you're Worth every cent!!! But hey,Can I borrow a Dollar! Hahaha Now that's how its done! Congratulation!"

Peterson's contract extension last summer was worth $100 million and included $36 million in guarantees, which should give you some context for how lucrative Johnson's deal is.

I'm sure you're tired of the dry salary-cap discussions we've had in relation to Johnson's future. But they were critical to the short- and long-term success of the Lions franchise. Johnson will continue to represent a significant cash and cap commitment in the years to come, but the Lions now have more cost certainty and no longer face a short-term crisis. That's a win for everyone.