The real Megatron wasn’t paid a dime. He just crushed stuff.
Detroit’s Megatron crushes defensive backs, and he’s now paid quite handsomely with an extension that will keep him with the Lions for the rest of his prime years. Johnson has agreed to a seven-year contract extension worth $132 million, with a record $60 million guaranteed.
That’s the most guaranteed money ever, more than Larry Fitzgerald’s $50 million, and Johnson is now the highest-paid player in the NFL.
The deal was officially announced on the Lions’ team website, and a press conference will be held today at 1 p.m. ET.
Next fall Johnson would have entered the final year of his rookie contract, a scenario that simply wasn’t going to happen. If you think this contract is enough to buy several small countries, then consider how much Johnson’s value on the open market could have escalated with one more year of typical Megatron production. He was the only receiver to average over 100 receiving yards per game during the regular season (105.1), which led to an easy lead in overall yards (1,681). He also had 32 receptions for 20 yards or more, 10 for at least 40, and 16 touchdowns.
Those are the numbers of a freakish athlete who’s more than deserving of being the highest-paid player in the game, but the cost for Detroit comes in more than just monetary terms. The Lions let Eric Wright walk and join the dash to Tampa Bay while they finalized this massive extension for Johnson that will keep him in the Motor City until 2019 when he’s 34 years old.
While the offense lit its fireworks and Matthew Stafford’s chemistry with Johnson continued to grow, the secondary became Detroit’s downfall, a weakness that was particularly glaring during the Lions’ playoff loss to New Orleans when the Saints scored 45 points, and Drew Brees threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns. Without Wright, that weakness will grow, and it’ll keep subtracting from Johnson’s brilliance, partially minimizing the substantial investment Detroit made today in their two-time All Pro.
But defensive deficiencies could now be addressed elsewhere in free agency, moves made possible by Johnson’s extension. Prior to this deal he was set to account for $22 million of Detroit’s payroll in 2012, which is roughly five percent of the $120.6 million salary cap tied up in one player.
Now that number has decreased by $9 million, money that could be used to keep linebacker Stephen Tulloch.