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Johnson's future with Bills remains in question

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Posted Dec. 14, 2011 @ 7:32 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

Bills WR Stevie Johnson is a little behind the pace he set during his breakout 2010 season, but he has done enough this season to prove that it was no fluke. Johnson has also been no stranger to controversy in his fourth NFL season, especially after his touchdown celebration against the Jets that cost his team 15 yards and his wallet $10,000, and some crucial drops. Johnson is still the team's primary receiver in his contract season, but there are questions about whether he will remain in Buffalo in 2012.

Johnson and the Bills had been talking about an extension until several weeks ago when we hear that Johnson wanted to postpone the talks until the end of the season to focus on football, as the two sides did not see eye to eye on money.

The Bills already gave contract extensions to NT Kyle Williams, their top defensive player, and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, showing a commitment that Fitz would be their long-term signalcaller. They gave ORT Erik Pears an extension this week. RB Fred Jackson, their best offensive player, whose contract expires after 2012, also wants an extension.

The way we hear it, Johnson had not been asking for top-tier receiver money. Instead, Johnson had been willing to give the Bills a hometown discount because of his loyalty to the Bills, the organization that selected him in the seventh round in 2008 and gave him an opportunity.

The Bills still have the franchise tag in their back pocket, which could average around $9.4 million for a wide receiver next offseason. A contract extension, though, would save the Bills the 2012 cap hit they would get from placing the tag on Johnson.

On the field, Johnson is the team's best receiver. In addition to his numbers (63-790-6), Johnson has been the most productive receiver in the league against the NFL's best cornerback. In two games against Jets CB Darrelle Revis this season, Johnson has a combined 11 catches for 159 yards and a touchdown. And off the field, Johnson has been a marketable player for the franchise.

It's no secret that the Bills' organization is not known for throwing money around. According to Pro Football Talk, the Bills were $20.9 million under the cap as of Nov. 20, ranking them sixth in the league in most money available.

After practice Wednesday, Johnson confirmed to reporters his desire to stay in Buffalo and, from what we have heard, the ball is squarely in the team's court. Asked if he would approach the Bills about an extension, Johnson responded, "No, we're good. We're just going to ride it out and see what happens the rest of the season."

The Bills have young talent at the position they are excited about developing. If the two sides fail to agree on a deal, Johnson could hit the open market in March and the Bills would have to hope they can find another No. 1 wideout already on the roster or in the draft.

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