Lions offseason to-do list, starting with getting Calvin Johnson’s answer

The Lions can't do much until they figure out whether Johnson will return -- and how much it will cost them if he does.

Raj Mehta

Each day between now and post-Super Bowl Monday, we’ll roll out a get-to-the-point offseason plan for one NFL team. Today, the Lions; tomorrow, the Rams. After that, we’ll see. Here’s our three-point plan for Detroit:

1. Determine Calvin Johnson’s future

General manager Bob Quinn reportedly plans to meet with Johnson and his camp sometime before free agency begins. Johnson’s agent, Bus Cook, spoke with The Detroit News at the Senior Bowl last week and said the 30-year-old five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver’s “body’s tired,” and on Sunday ESPN reported that Johnson had already told the team he plans to retire but that the Lions are giving him time to change his mind. At this point, there reportedly hasn’t been any contact between Johnson and the team about a possible contract restructure. Johnson has a $24 million salary cap hit next season, which has fueled a lot of the speculation surrounding him. With so many questions about Johnson, the Lions must be proactive and begin to think about adding some depth behind Golden Tate.

2. Clear up some cap space

Tulloch is one of a few Lions players who might have to go to save cap money.

Certainly, Detroit could use some assistance from Johnson’s camp regarding a contract restructure. More than $19 million in dead money will come off the books next season, but the Lions could make a couple moves to create even more flexibility. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch, whose coverage skills have taken a bit of a slide in recent seasons, has a $7.3 million cap number. Tulloch’s contract has only $1.3 million remaining in dead money, so it would be fairly easy to part ways with the aging veteran. Offensive tackle Riley Reiff has an $8 million cap hit that has no dead money. Adding Reiff to the list would give the Lions around $35 million to play with. And assuming Johnson isn’t open to a restructure, they’d be able to keep him on the roster if he wanted to come back

3. Target some help in the middle

The departures of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley left a gaping hole in the middle of Detroit’s defensive line last offseason. Haloti Ngata didn’t meet the grand expectations that came with his arrival, and Caraun Reid struggled to have much of an impact. Furthermore, Detroit is likely to lose Ngata and Tyrunn Walker in free agency. Expect the Lions’ new regime to address this position with care and potentially spend the No. 16 overall draft pick on it. Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson, Baylor’s Andrew Billings or Mississippi’s Robert Nkemdiche could be on their list.

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