Bills, Johnson reach new five-year deal; Saints re-up with Colston unlikely


Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson was re-signed today, the last day NFL teams can apply the franchise tag to players, to a lucrative five-year $36.25 million dollar contract. A whopping $19.5 million of that is guaranteed, and he is expected to net $24 million in the first three years.

Johnson was a seventh round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2008, not making much of a splash until his breakout 2010 season with 82 catches for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns once quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was at the helm.

In 2011 Johnson caught 76 passes for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns — bringing his two year total 2,077 yards with 17 touchdowns — numbers that seat him solidly in the top ten for overall production for a wide receiver.

The move helps the Bills retain a key piece to an offense that has come alive over recent seasons (15th ranking in 2011), and keeps Fitzpatrick’s top target with the team potentially through the 2016 season.

But Johnson’s deal is likely to send repercussions through the league, as big name wide receiver’s are going to cite his deal during their own negotiations with their respective teams.

The Chargers Vincent Jackson is scheduled to become a free agent, and while the team has flirted with the option of applying the franchise tag, it now appears he won’t get the tag and thus will either attempt to get a new deal to remain with San Diego or hit the free agent market.

New Orleans is in a similar predicament with Marques Colston, the teams top wide receiver, that has caught 449 passes for 6,240 yards and 48 touchdowns since the 2006 season.

Like Johnson, Colston was also a seventh round pick.

The Saints could not come to terms on a new contract with quarterback Drew Brees, choosing to place the exclusive rights franchise tag on him Saturday to retain his services.

Brees will now make a base salary of $14.4 million in 2012.

It’s believed now that the Saints have shifted their attention to re-signing Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks, who wants to make more money than fellow team mate Jahri Evan’s, who signed a seven-year contract worth $56.7 million dollars before the 2010 season.

If the Saints can get the deal done to retain Nicks it’s a foregone conclusion that there will be no money left to get Colston back, who will be looking for his new deal to be the same or higher than Stevie Johnson’s with the Bills.

Colston is a big, physical receiver that thrives in the middle of the field and in red zone situations.

If he is lost it could be hard for the Saints offense to compensate, even though tight end Jimmy Graham can work the same routes as Colston likely with equal success.

Receiver Robert Meachem is also scheduled to become a free agent, but unlike Colson could come back to the Saints at a much lower salary to remain with the team for a few more seasons.

Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Adrian Arrington, Joseph Morgan, and Andy Tanner comprise the rest of the Saints receiving core.

All are under contracts of some kind, but that doesn’t mean all will be with the team in 2012.

The Saints may not have a choice but to turn to the draft to bring in more receivers, and potential targets could include Georgia Tech’s Steven Hill  and Cincinnati’s D.J. Woods.