Oct 25, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) points for a first down during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
For the first time in what feels like forever, the unthinkable has been mentioned. Could Calvin Johnson, perhaps one of the three best wide receivers in NFL history actually leave the Detroit Lions after this season? Many seem to think it possible given the team is faced with the prospect of yet another rebuild after they fired GM Martin Mayhew and have cleaned out much of the front office.
"“With elements of the coaching staff already gone and the front office stripped bare, the franchise receiver was lobbed a question about whether he would be willing to suffer through another rebuild.He could have grabbed his chance and made a strong commitment to the Lions’ future. But in a moment that even Detroit fans likely understand, he alligator-armed it.“We’ll have to wait and see,” Johnson said. “I don’t think about what could happen.”"
The prevailing idea is the next GM will likely decide to blow up the current team structure. That means trading away their best assets for a glutton of draft picks. Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford top the list. If true, then it becomes a question of whether they can what with the extension $24 million salary cap hit he’ll bring next year.
Here are some teams that may give it a try.
This naturally makes the most sense for several reasons. The Oakland Raiders look like a team that is ready to compete for the playoffs. They have an excellent young quarterback in Derek Carr who loves to sling it downfield. Most importantly though they have the enormous cap space needed to absorb that Johnson contract. Current estimates are they could have upwards of $72 million or more. That should be able to handle the $24 million hit a trade would bring with room to spare. On the flip side, they get to pair Johnson to Amari Cooper. Logically speaking, that’s a no-brainer.
St. Louis Rams
Defense and running the ball are two things the St. Louis Rams now know they can do as well as any team in the country. However, even with an upgrade at quarterback in Nick Foles they continue to struggle in the passing game. That could mean a general lack of quality receivers. St. Louis will have over $38 million in cap space next year, so if they wanted to think aggressively they could make a deal for Megatron work.
San Francisco 49ers
If finding a contender is top priority, this could be a difficult sell for Johnson. However, the San Francisco 49ers will be in position to pile up a ton of cap space in 2016 if they were to unload two of their heavier contracts in Colin Kaepernick and Ahmad Brooks. Even if they cut both, the team would end up with upwards of $57 million. If the team does draft a new quarterback as expected, he’ll need a reliable go-to target and there are none better than Johnson. He and Torrey Smith would make quite a combination.
This is a bit of a wild card. At first glance the Arizona Cardinals really won’t have the cap space needed to take on that Johnson contract ($22.2 million). However, there is a way they could make it happen and give the Lions something in return: wide receiver Michael Floyd. The reasoning is simple. Floyd will hold a $7.3 salary cap hit in 2016. He’s younger and would give the Lions a quality option is return for what they’d be losing in Johnson. The exit of that cap hit would then free up enough space for the Cardinals to get him.