This is how highly regarded Calvin Johnson is around NFL circles, real and fantasy: the man just finished an 88-catch, 1214-yard, nine-touchdown season, and it goes down as a disappointment to many.
That’s life when you’re on a Hall of Fame trajectory.
The Lions had a party in their Week 17 finale Sunday, traveling to Chicago and dispatching the Bears, 24-20. It completes a nifty 6-2 finish for Detroit, and remember one of those losses was the improbable Hall Mary defeat to Green Bay. Head coach Jim Caldwell might have saved his job with this fast finish. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter might have fixed this offense over the past two months. These guys might be around for the future.
But does the future include Megatron?
Johnson signed a seven-year, $113 million deal in 2013. He takes $24 million off the cap next year. His base salary checks in just under $16 million. He'll turn 31 in late September.
That’s a lot of cake for someone in the second or third tier of wide receivers these days. Think about your early wideout board for 2016. Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., those are the sexiest names. When the Yahoo Original Six came out with their preliminary 2016 wideout ranks, four different pundits didn’t even include Megatron in their Top 16. (I could easily reconsider that stance — ranks eight months away from draft season don’t mean a lot — but that’s not the point.)
Yards per catch is a misleading stat at times, but it’s interesting to note Johnson averaged just 13.8 per grab in 2015, the lowest mark of his career. He checked in at 15.2 last year and his career mark is 15.9. Johnson’s always been able to make hay on the full route tree, but he’s not the dynamic deep threat he used to be.
Matthew Stafford’s second-half resurgence was tied to the entire receiving group; Johnson was up-and-down in the final third of the year. Stafford rolled up 298 passing yards and three touchdowns against zero picks in the finale, putting a bow on a dynamic finish to the year. Add up the last six games and here’s what you get: 17 touchdowns, one pick, 1655 yards, a rating around 118. Stafford’s future in Detroit seemed up in the air two months ago, but he’s clearly a building block now.