After two months of contemplation and speculation, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson officially announced his retirement on Tuesday, with the team issuing a statement to the press.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) March 8, 2016
Johnson followed that up by releasing a long statement of his own through the Lions website. Here’s an excerpt:
“Let me assure you that this was not an easy or hasty decision. As I stated, I, along with those closest to me, have put a lot of time, deliberation and prayer into this decision and I truly am at peace with it.
“I also want you to know that I have the utmost respect and admiration for the game of football. It has provided so much for me and my family and I will be forever grateful to the game.
“With the reality of my decision, I realize there are a lot of people I would like to thank. I must start with my family – thank you for all your love and support.”
The 30-year-old enjoyed a brilliant career, holding multiple NFL receiving records including most yards in a single season (1,964), most seasons with 1,600 yards (two) and fastest player to 10,000 receiving yards (115 games).
Johnson played nine seasons with the Lions, being named to the Pro Bowl six times and leading the NFL in receiving yards twice. The Lombardi Trophy eluded him, but Johnson still had a magnificent run and is a lock for the NFL Hall of Fame. It’s hard to argue that he’s not one of the greatest players of all time at his position.
While Detroit is worse without him, the move allows the club to open up more than $11 million in cap space for 2016. The Lions already put some of that to use, signing defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker to a one-year extension on Monday. The team has needs at offensive tackle, defensive tackle and wide receiver which will need to be addressed this offseason and the available cap room gives them wiggle room. Replacing Johnson’s production at receiver will be impossible, however.
Notable players that have retired this offseason. pic.twitter.com/KQdRsA9hgm
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 8, 2016
Johnson is among an impressive group of retiring players this offseason, which includes Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson and Carolina Panthers defensive end Jared Allen.
Throughout his professional and college career, Johnson was a phenomenal player and with the toll that the current NFL game takes on its players, it could be quite some time before fans will see a wide receiver as dominant. Though injuries and staying healthy played a role in his decision, Johnson left the league on his own terms and walked away from a considerable amount of money owed to him had he kept playing. You have to respect him for that.