Say what you want about Lions owner William Clay Ford, Sr., but the man appreciates a special talent.

Back in 1997 he made Barry Sanders the highest paid player with a six-year, $34 million deal. Fifteen years later, he did the same for receiver Calvin Johnson. Only this time it cost him $132 million over eight years, with a $60 million guarantee.

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“It’s Mr. Ford’s birthday today,” coach Jim Schwartz said on Wednesday (March 14). “He’s the only guy I know who on his birthday decides to give a gift to the city of Detroit, the Lions organization and NFL fans everywhere.”

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Mr. Ford’s 87th birthday gift not only secured Johnson through 2019, but it cleared another $9.5 million in salary cap room so that general manager Martin Mayhew and president Tom Lewand can go about re-signing some of their own free agents.

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