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Wed, 22 Feb 2012 12:13 PM EST

Stevie Johnson and the Buffalo Bills are still “far apart” in deal talks. And the receiver does not anticipate the team to use its franchise tag to keep him, a person acquainted with discussions told to the media on Sunday. Las Vegas odds

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because talks are continuing.

The update on speaks comes after the 2 parts exchanged offers last week, and agreed to meet at the NFL combine in Indianapolis this week. Scores

Johnson has led the Bills in receiving in every one of the past 2 seasons and is eligible to become a free agent next month.

The Bills have a scheme towards discussing contract talks. GM Buddy Nix did say last month that he would like to re-sign Johnson.

Beginning Monday, NFL groups can start to use a franchise tag to retain the rights of their possible free agents.

Applying the tag would not forestall the Bills from continuing to agree a long-term agreement with Johnson. However, if a deal is not reached, it would put the team able to have to pay the receiver about $9.4 million next season.

Such a deal would cuff the Bills’ payroll, and limit their ability to sign other independent agents to enhance a team that’s not made the playoffs in 12 seasons – the NFL’s longest active drought.

The Bills haven’t made use of the tag since 2006, when they appointed cornerback Nate Clements their organization player. Clements signed the $7.2 million offer; under the demand the team may permit him to become an independent agent the next season.

Johnson hasn’t debated how much he’s looking for, except to point out he’s not asked the team to pay him $9 million or $10 million a season, which would put him in the upper echelon of NFL receivers.

Johnson’s price has gone up since the Bills took a chance on using a 7th-round pick on selecting the player out of Kentucky in the 2008 draft. Sparingly employed in his 1st 2 seasons, Johnson’s production took off in 2010, when he had 82 catches for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns in supplanting veteran Lee Evans as the Bills’ top risk.

Johnson maintained his production this season after Buffalo traded Evans to Baltimore in August. He finished with 76 catches for 1,004 yards and 7 touchdowns in turning into the team’s 1st receiver to have successive 1,000-yard seasons.

As dynamic as he’s been, Johnson has landed in hot water for his over-the-top celebrations. He was benched for the last 3 quarters of the Buffalo Bills’ curtain call at New England after being flagged a second time in 6 games – and 3rd time in 2 years – for an exorbitant touchdown party.

Losing Johnson would be a massive blow to a Bills offense that lacks experienced depth at the receiver position, and for an offense that made strides under quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick last season. In spite of a 6-10 finish, in which Buffalo lost 8 of its last 9 games, the Bills finished 14th in the NFL in yards gained — the team’s best showing since finishing 11th in 2002.

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