OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 18: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions looks on in pre-game warmups before the game against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on December 18, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
News broke earlier that Detroit Lions superstar receiver Calvin Johnson signed a brand new eight-year deal to remain in Motor City through 2019. The new contract is reportedly worth north of $130 million over that time span, with around $53 million being guaranteed. There was hardly ever a chance that Johnson was going to be allowed to test the free agent market anyhow, so signing a long-term contract that makes him the richest receiver in the NFL was the best solution for both sides.
Johnson's new record setting deal is slightly larger than that of Larry Fitzgerald's contract. Before the start of the 2011 season, Fitz signed an 8 year deal as well, except the number was a bit less ($120 million). Not only did his contract set a precedent for Johnson's new deal, but it also made the front office of the Cardinals appear to be very smart in their decision making.
The Cardinals brass saw the trend and they were the first to react to it. By signing Fitzgerald to a long-term deal that is also cap friendly, the team was able to keep the face of their franchise while beating out the curve. We see far too many busts that come through the league in the hopes that they can be the next Fitz or Megatron. Stumbling upon players of this caliber is never a guaranteed thing.
And how about accounting for players that will hold themselves responsible both on and off the field? Far too often we see players get traded or cut from their teams despite their exceptional talent (I'm looking at you, Brandon Marshall). Securing an athlete that is not only a good player, but also a good person, is something that cannot be overlooked.
Eventually, inflation will bring more and more contracts to these types of levels because teams will be forced to spend if they want to keep their big name players. Imagine what the contract for a receiver five years from now will look like. How about ten years?
Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice made a salary of just $4.5 million in 2000. If he were still playing today, his salary would likely exceed that of any player -- including Fitzgerald and Johnson.
So while many were skeptical about the Cards front office's decision to give a wide receiver such a long-term deal for so much money, it appears that they were right on track. In fact, you could almost say that they were visionaries. Congratulations to Calvin Johnson and thanks for making the Arizona Cardinals look so good.