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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Lions: Johnson cap charge reduced by $9M

By Kevin Seifert

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.

Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson's contract extension with the Lions includes $60 million in guarantees.
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.