Today, after months of on again/off again negotiations, the Buffalo Bills re-signed receiver Steve Johnson to a reported 5-year, $36.25 million deal. The deal is important to both sides because Buffalo holds on to their go-to receiver and Johnson gets the big deal that he has worked for. Could he have gotten more had he entered free agency? Maybe, but Buffalo has always been the right place for Johnson.
Last week at the Combine I had a conversation with a friend of mine at the Buffalo News about the Johnson situation. I told him that Johnson and his agent may not realize it, but Buffalo is the best place for him. Too many players look at strictly the money and don’t realize that the grass isn’t always greener in another city.
Looking at Johnson’s career, he has done a great job making the most out of average talent. Coming out of high school, Johnson was not a highly recruited player and ended up playing junior college football in California. After two years in junior college he was rewarded with a scholarship to the University of Kentucky.
He didn’t do much his first year at Kentucky catching only 12 passes but he followed that up with a big senior year catching 61 passes. Still, he was a late-round pick by Buffalo (7th round). There is a reason he wasn’t drafted higher, and that is because he only had one year of production and he isn’t exactly a burner. He ran in the 4.6 area.
He hardly played his first two years in Buffalo catching a total of 12 passes. It wasn’t until Chan Gailey was hired as head coach that Johnson was able to show his talent. In 2010 he had 82 catches for 1,073 yards and in 2011 he had 76 catches for 1,004 yards. His average per catch over those two seasons was 13.2 yards. He also had a total of 19 touchdowns in those two seasons with a long catch of 55 yards. He is not what I would call a game breaker…he is a very reliable possession receiver with great hands and very good ability to adjust to the ball. The Bills know how to play to Johnson’s strengths and they do.
The point I’m trying to make is it’s the current Buffalo offense that has made Johnson a star and it’s the Buffalo offense that will keep Johnson a star. If he were to go somewhere else things may not be the same…he may be just an average player, if that. Buffalo knew his value to them and paid him for that value. So as I see it, it’s a win-win for both sides. We have seen in the past players change clubs in free agency and they turn out to be a disappointment. This happens because the club that signs the player may not really know his strengths and weaknesses and when they finally find out, it’s too late! Free agency can be risky for all involved. Everyone better do their homework or the ending might not turn out the way you had hoped.