While frequenting my Twitter account this afternoon, I slapped an update that essentially said I’m thinking the Buffalo Bills are not going to re-sign wide receiver Stevie Jonson to a long-term contract anytime soon, and certainly not before free agency starts.
In fairness of full disclosure, this is my opinion right now based primarily on things I’m hearing, but do not have a solid source telling me anything concrete.
I tweeted on December 13 that I’m hearing the Bills will place the franchise tag on Johnson if they don’t re-sign him. Right now, I’m not even completely convinced the Bills themselves know what they want to do with Johnson.
Regardless, my Twitter account has been inundated with comments from Bills fans since posting my Johnson belief, mainly asking why the Bills wouldn’t re-sign him and would instead spend their money on other guys.
Again, what I’m going to write in the few paragraph or two is just a thought based on what I think I may know—you’re welcomed to interpret that anyway you want, or not at all.
I do not think the Bills are going to re-sign Johnson to a long contract deal this month, next month, this spring or this summer. Frankly, I think the organization while appreciative of his formidable talent and knowledgeable of his popularity amongst fans does not trust his maturity enough to put four or five years and more importantly, $20 million or more in guarantees in his pocket.
To do a long-term deal Johnson would agree to tomorrow, the terms would be somewhere around at least four years and roughly $30 million, with probably two-thirds of that in bonuses and guarantees. Honestly, based on the celebration penalties and his untimely drops, I’m unsure the organization is ready for that kind of commitment.
At the same time, don’t think Buddy Nix and his staff aren’t keenly aware of the ramifications by letting Johnson walk away through free agency in regards to the fan base. Put it this way— if Johnson isn’t tagged or re-signed and hits the open market come March, I can promise you he’s gone.
By placing the franchise tag on Johnson, the Bills could pay $9.4 million for 2012 and have ample time to see if he continues his progression towards being a top flight receiver and if some of the things that have plagued him during his two-years as a starter here are firmly behind him. If they are, they can offer him a great deal and even overpay if necessary to keep him here for the prime of his career. If they’re not, they can let him go on his way in 2013 and not look back with regret, or a lynch mentality from a frustrated fan base.
Regardless of what happens with Johnson, I can guarantee the Bills will be uncharacteristically active when it comes to spending at the position in free agency. I hear Ralph Wilson has been extremely adamant and vocal to his staff about having a “serious upgrade” at wide receiver; in part to further protect his big investment in Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Bills will be players in the free agent market for a good receiver, or a pair should they decide Johnson is too much a risk to give a big payday to.
For now, just be patient and let the process play out. Anything that’s written or said at this point is almost certainly speculation. It has to be—because the sense I’m getting is the front office doesn’t know what to do yet and if so, how can anyone else know?