By Josh Katzowitz
Did you know that Stevie Johnson has been in the league for four years and is just now coming to the end of his rookie contract? You’d be forgiven if you thought that Johnson, through his sometimes-outlandish play and much-of-the-time-outlandish touchdown celebrations, had only been in the league for the past two seasons.
True, in his first two seasons, he combined to catch 12 passes for 112 yards, but he’s turned himself into one of the Bills most important players the past two years. He needs 36 yards in the season finale against the Patriots to go over 1,000 yards receiving for the second-straight year, and though his catches and touchdowns are down from a season ago, Johnson has put together the best two receiving seasons in Buffalo since Eric Moulds in 2004-05.
That’s why it’s not surprising that WGR 550 in Buffalo (H/T to PFT) is reporting that Johnson asked for an annual salary of $7.5 million for between 4-5 years during his contract negotiations with the Bills. Which could be one reason why, according to the radio station, that Buffalo hasn’t made him an offer for the past month. When the two sides met in September, they were apparently about $2 million apart in annual compensation.
|What Stevie wants|
There has been talk that the Bills, instead of inking Johnson to a long-term deal, will franchise-tag him instead. After all, running back Fred Jackson also is in want of a new deal.
As the Buffalo News wrote early this month, “The time to get him at under market value was August or September, or maybe even immediately after quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick signed his contract extension on Oct. 29. Early in the season, a player in his contract year still has some motivation to strike an under-market deal, because he's getting security in the event of a serious injury during the season. …
“Does that mean Johnson is gone? Not necessarily. The Bills still have the franchise tag in their pocket. They could use it on Johnson if no extension can be worked out between now and February. The franchise tag would guarantee Johnson about $9.5 million in 2012 on a one-year deal.
Otherwise, Johnson would walk onto the open free agent market, where he probably could get that $7.5 million a year. While he’s not the best receiver in the game and most likely not in the top-10 -- and probably not worth as much money as he wants -- he’s a proven playmaker with an exciting personality. If the Bills can’t make the deal, somebody surely would be more than happy to do it for them.
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