Calvin Johnson, otherwise known as ‘Megatron’ and one of the most dynamic receivers to play in the NFL in the last 20 years, appears set to join Barry Sanders in the pantheon of Detroit Lions greats who have hung up their cleats before the age of 32, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that the surefire future Hall of Famer told head coach Jim Caldwell that he would be retiring the day after the regular season ended. This came after Johnson told his family and close friends that the 2015 season would be his final one before it even began.

While Caldwell told Johnson not to rush his decision and the receiver told his coach he would think about it, it does appear that the five time Pro Bowl appears set to begin his retirement, though the Lions do hold hope that he will change his mind. Only two of Johnson’s teammates — quarterback Matthew Stafford and linebacker Stephen Tulloch — were told of Johnson’s retirement thoughts prior to the 2015 season, and they were asked to keep the decision under wraps. No one else in the Lions organization learned of Johnson’s desire until the end of the season.

When the rest of the franchise learned of Johnson’s intentions, reports did start to leak out, and an early January report indicated Johnson was indeed mulling hanging up his cleats. Johnson downplayed the specifics of that report, however, indicating that he was still thinking through his options. “Like many players at this stage of their career, I am currently evaluating options for my future,” Johnson said at the time. “I would expect to have a decision regarding this matter in the not-too-distant future.”

While he has only played for nine seasons, it makes sense that Johnson would decide to leave the game while still playing at a high level. He has a tremendous amount of wear and tear accrued during his career, as he has dealt with nagging ankle injuries, finger issues, and general overall soreness, despite having missed only five games in the last five seasons. Even though he would be playing this season at only age 31, an age where some of the best receivers of recent memory were still capable of putting up solid statistical seasons, it is obvious that his physical ailments have taken a toll.

If Johnson does retire, he will owe the Lions $3.2 million in signing bonus money, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. Moreover, Detroit will save more than $11 million on its 2016 salary cap if Johnson hangs it up. Even if he does reverse course and decide to play another year, Johnson and the club might have to rework his current deal, and his cap charge is set to balloon to more than $24 million next season.

Since leading the NFL with 122 receptions and 1,964 yards in 2012, Johnson has seen his production decline slightly. Still, he continued to be one of the league’s more productive pass catchers in 2015, with 88 catches, 1,214 yards, and nine touchdowns. Johnson is the Lions’ all-time leader in receptions (731) receiving yards (11,619) and receiving touchdowns (83).

As of last week, new Lions general manager Bob Quinn said he had not spoken to Johnson about his future, though Quinn did note that he hoped to have a resolution before the start of free agency in March.

By contrast, Sanders, one of the greatest running backs in history, retired in 1999 at the age of 31 after his 10th season in the league. During the 1998 season, he rushed for 1491 yards, the fewest he had rushed for in six seasons despite playing all 16 games that season.

Even with the possibility of having to give back some of his signing bonus, Johnson has earned well over $100 million over the course of his career. Given the amount of injuries he has played through, he likely is choosing to preserve his physical well-being over the allure of continuing to be one of the highest paid players in such a physical sport, not unlike Sanders before him. While he may change his mind, Schefter’s report indicates that people close to him feel he is content with his decision. And so, next season, the NFL and the Lions will lose one of its brightest stars who seemingly had plenty of football left to play. Good luck to Megatron in all his future endeavors.

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