The popular belief is that the Detroit Lions could be the team to beat in the NFC North and will be perennial Super Bowl contenders for years to come. With a plethora of young players that have expiring contracts, it's going to be difficult for Detroit to keep their core in tact.
The first sign of this could be Calvin Johnson's 21 million cap hit. According to ProFootballTalk, Johnson will have a 14 million base salary in 2012, 4.5 million in roster bonuses due and more than 2.5 in allocations from past bonus payments. He also has a franchise tender of 25.2 million in 2013.
There's no doubt that Detroit will do everything they can to keep Johnson and rightfully so. He's arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL and the Lions' No. 1 option on offense.
By keeping Johnson, the Lions will be forced to cut ties with several veteran players starting this offseason. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press talked to PFT Live on Tuesday and said that Nate Burleson and Corey Williams could be the first cap causalities.
Detroit will also be faced with finding a way to sign impending free agent Cliff Avril. After the season Avril had (11 sacks) and being only 25-years-old, the defensive end will be highly sought after around the league and could demand a salary the Lions can't afford.
Yes, Detroit has a great young nucleus to build around - Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh, Brandon Pettigrew, Titus Young, Nick Fairley and last year's second round pick Mikel Leshoure - but at some point those rookie contracts are going to expire and the Lions are going to have some major decisions to make.
Without having the financial capability to improve the team via free agency, the Lions will have to hope they 'hit' on every draft pick, like they seemingly have for the past four seasons.
Do you believe the Lions pose as a legitimate threat to the Bears in the NFC North or do you think the Packers are still the team to beat? Let us know in the comment box below.