Unlike Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts tell Andrew Luck to keep bonus money

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
View Comments

Maybe they learned something from the way the Detroit Lions handled Calvin Johnson's retirement, or maybe they knew it was the right thing to do all along.

Whatever the case, the Indianapolis Colts will not force quarterback Andrew Luck to repay a prorated portion of his signing bonus after Luck's surprise retirement Saturday, ESPN reported.

Calvin Johnson dunks over the goal post after his touchdown against the Packers in Detroit on Nov. 28, 2013.

Luck, 29, signed a five-year extension in 2016 that included a $32 million signing bonus.

Because Luck retired with two years left on his contract, the Colts could have recouped $12.8 million in signing bonus payments and another $12 million in a roster bonus that was paid earlier this year.

The Lions forced Johnson to repay a seven-figure portion of his signing bonus when he walked away immediately after the 2015 season, a payment that has been the subject of discontent for the future Hall-of-Fame wide receiver ever since.

Johnson has largely stayed away from the only franchise he played for over the past three years, and while Lions president Rod Wood said this spring it was "a very high priority" for that to change, Johnson told the Free Press in June there was only way to make that happen.

"The only way they’re going to get me back is they put that money back in my pocket," Johnson said. "Nah, you don’t do that. I don’t care what they say. They can put it back, then they can have me back. That’s the bottom line."

Andrew Luck announced his retirement from the NFL on Saturday night.

Historically, NFL teams have not pursued repayment of signing bonus money after their star players retire.

The Lions, however, forced Johnson to cut a check on the day he retired, and sued Barry Sanders for repayment of a portion of his signing bonus when he retired unexpectedly on the eve of training camp 20 years ago.

More:20 years ago, Barry Sanders retired and 'all hell broke loose'

Sanders, like Johnson, stayed away from the organization for a time, but has since rejoined the Lions in a paid role as team ambassador.

"That’s a tough check to write,” Sanders said in June. “In the NFL you realize it’s a business and they have to handle things on their side of it the way that they do.

“So I don’t have any advice (to Calvin) other than I think over time then you’ll probably see the two sides come together. You think they’d be able to reach some agreement. But I wish Calvin well. We’d love to have him back around, especially the fans, what have you.”

More:Barry Sanders, London and the most bizarre escape of his career

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.

View Comments