After the Bills took a bit of a chance on Stevie Johnson, the flamboyant receiver decided to return the favor.
Johnson agreed a 5-year, $36.25 million agreement extension with the Buffalo Bills, a week before he was set to become an unlimited independent agent. NFL betting lines
“I need to do all I can to make sure and let them know they didn’t make a mistake,” Johnson asserted. “I want to be sure they look great. This is where I started, and I would have liked to remain loyal to them.”
Johnson, 25, was all smiles after he signed the contract that will keep him brought back together with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The two have developed a strong association, and are viewed as a key cog in the Bills’ youth change. NFL lines
Bills CEO Buddy Nix was also happy to have signed his No. 1 receiver on the last day for groups to designate potential independent agents with the franchise tag. Applying the tag on Johnson would have cost the Bills about $9.4 million next season.
“It’s a great day for us,” he said. “Our football team got better. One of our philosophies coming in is that we wanted to keep our good players here. We were able to do that with Steve Johnson. It goes without saying what he’s done the previous 2 years, and I suspect it’s just going to get better.”
After being picked in the 7th round of the 2008 draft, Johnson appeared in 2010 when he led the Buffalo Bills with a career-high 82 catches for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. He followed that up this past season with 76 receptions, and became the 1st player in team history to record sequential 1,000-yard receiving campaigns.
He has 170 catches for 2,189 yards and 19 touchdowns in 48 games during his 4-year career.
The Buffalo Bills would be dealt a large blow had they not re-signed Johnson. Perennially one of the worst offensive teams in the league, they commenced making strides last year in Fitzpatrick’s 2nd year as the beginning quarterback. Buffalo finished 14th in the NFL in yards gained, its best ranking since finishing 11th in 2002 under the instruction of quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
“We’ve developed a good relationship,” said Fitzpatrick, who signed a 6-year, $59 million deal extension in October. “To be well placed to keep on that and see that grow for the following couple of years is going to be great. Chan (Gailey) and Buddy have a strategy in place and this shows that we’re on the correct track. We’re going to keep the guys that perform, and continue on what we’ve done.”
Johnson accepts that the Bills are on the right path despite losing eight of their final 9 games to finish 6-10 in 2011, their 12th straight season without a postseason berth.
This past season was an agitated one for Johnson. He fought thru injuries to his shoulder, groin, and hand, and also landed in hot water for his over-the-top celebrations. He was benched for the last 3 quarters of the Bills’ finale at New England after being flagged a 2nd time in 6 games – and 3rd time in 2 years – for an over the top touchdown celebration.
But Fitzpatrick believes Johnson will leave the past behind as the 2 concentrate on taking their team to a higher level.