Free-agent scouting report: Bills WR Stevie Johnson

Posted March 02, 2012 @ 9:37 a.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

This is the 25th in a series of scouting reports on key players who are expected to become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.

News: In the midst of his contract year, Johnson decided to turn his focus to the field, postponing in-season talks regarding a new deal when the two sides did not see eye to eye on is value. "The Bills have options. They can use the franchise tag on him, they can negotiate an extension, or they can let him walk. It is no secret where Stevie's heart is, but at the same time he has to do what is best for his family," LaBoy told WGR in late January. The franchise tag is a possibility, and it is expected to be worth around $9.4 million for wide receivers. A contract extension, though, would save the Bills the 2012 cap hit. And things have picked up in the talks between Johnson and the Bills, as WGR-AM 550 in Buffalo reported on Feb. 16 that the Bills sent Johnson a contract proposal and his agent, C.J. LaBoy, countered it. The report also indicated that the two sides will meet in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine. PFW heard back in December that Johnson is very loyal to Buffalo and his first choice is to stay with the Bills.

Notes: Johnson became the first player in Bills franchise history to record back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He broke out in 2010 by producing 82 catches for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns and followed it up in ’11 with 76-1,004-7. In two games against Jets All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis this past season, Johnson had 11 catches for 159 yards and one touchdown. On the downside, Johnson was benched in Week 17 after picking up his second celebration penalty of the season. He also had a crucial drop in a loss to the Jets.

Positives: Johnson isn't a burner, but he is quick and a very good route runner. He is able to get open and showed last season the ability to catch passes even when he's closely covered. He has good size and is physical in the open field. Johnson was by far the team's top receiver and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's favorite target the past two seasons.

Negatives: He has dropped passes at crucial moments, most notably his overtime drop in the endzone against the Steelers in 2010 that would have won the game. Johnson's endzone antics have cost the team 15 yards at times and rubbed some in the organization the wrong way. He proved this past season that 2010 was not a fluke, but his production did take a slight dip. He will not blow past corners down the sideline.

Risk: Moderate. Johnson is a very skilled outside receiver and all you have to do is watch what he did against Revis to be reminded of that. He has performed well in Chan Gailey's system in Buffalo, but there might be questions as to how much he would be worth to other teams on the open market. Johnson's celebrations have earned him negative press and apparently made what was expected to be a slam-dunk re-signing with Buffalo more complicated.