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Will Lions ask Calvin Johnson to take a pay cut in 2016?

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Interim general manager Sheldon White suggested at his introductory news conference last month that the Lions plan to build around Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson going forward, but refused to directly address their futures in Detroit.

Although Stafford's stellar play over the past three weeks has quieted speculation that the Lions will be in the market for a quarterback next offseason, Johnson's $24 million salary-cap charge looms as prohibitive for 2016.

Pro Bowl ballot

The next general manager will have a major decision to make, as cutting Johnson would leave $12 million in dead money on the cap.

Although Johnson is still playing at a Pro Bowl level, he's no longer the consensus dominant talent at his position. It stands to reason, then, that the Lions will broach the subject of a pay cut in 2016.

"My understanding is, at this point, it is something Calvin Johnson would not be inclined to do," NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Thursday's edition of Around The NFL, "unless the Lions do something like the Cardinals did with Larry Fitzgerald, which is guarantee a significant amount of money for 2016 and '17."

The Lions' salary-cap predicament is a vestige of the woebegone Matt Millen era. They got stuck drafting first or second in three of four years prior to the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, which instituted a rookie pay scale. The result has been inflated restructured contracts for Stafford, Johnson and Ndamukong Suh.

Much like the prohibitive cap hit that eventually drove Suh out of Detroit, Johnson will have plenty of leverage this offseason.

Do the Lions really want to cut their best offensive player one year after watching their best defensive player walk out the door?

This will be a situation to monitor in February as the next regime takes the organization in a new direction.

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