Johnson’s cap number for 2012 is expected to be around $22 million, which would easily make him the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver. If no long-term extension is agreed upon, then the Lions would have to pay Johnson over $26 million in 2013 (and almost $32 million in 2014) because of the new CBA rules regarding the franchise tag.
Obviously, these figures would significantly hurt the Lions’ roster flexibility, so it’s in the organization’s best interest to work out a long-term deal. However, as Seifert notes, “Often, the average of a series of franchise tags provides a rough starting point for negotiations on long-term deals for star players. The three-year average of $25.6 million in Johnson’s case is monstrous.”
Any way you look at it, Johnson is about to get a lot more expensive for Detroit.