One of the more polarizing figures in this year's free agent class of wide receivers is, apparently, going to be allowed to hit the open market.
The Buffalo News is reporting that the Buffalo Bills are not going to use the franchise player designation on wide receiver Stevie Johnson. The franchise tag for wide receivers is around $9.4 million, and the two sides reportedly sit "far apart" in their negotiations.
Johnson was the Bills' seventh-round pick (224th overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft out of the University of Kentucky. After posting just 12 total catches over his first two years in the league, Johnson made a big splash with Buffalo, going over the thousand-yard mark in each of the past two seasons, the only receiver in Bills' history to do so. (Yep, not even Andre Reed had 1,000 yards receiving in consecutive seasons.) Over that time, he's averaged a shade over 13 yards/catch and found the end zone 17 times. At 6'2" and 210 pounds, Johnson would seem to be the ideal candidate for a receiver-starved team like Minnesota.
The downside? Well. . .he's a little different. People might go so far as to say he's a bit of a head case.
In a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010, Johnson had eight catches for 137 yards and three touchdowns. After one of the scores, he went to one of the cameras in the end zone and lifted his jersey to reveal the words "Why So Serious" written on his undershirt, a reference to The Dark Knight. But that was a relatively minor offense. The week after that. . .well, this happened in overtime when the Bills took on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After the game, Johnson took to his Twitter account and blamed God for the dropped pass, his fifth credited drop of the afternoon.
This past season, against the New York Jets, Johnson had a touchdown celebration where he pretended to shoot himself in the leg, an obvious dig at Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress, then pretended to fly like a jet before "crashing." Finally, in Week 17 against the New England Patriots, after catching a touchdown Johnson again revealed a message on his undershirt, this one being "Happy New Year." The Bills were penalized 15 yards for Johnson's celebration, and Buffalo coach Chan Gailey had seen enough, benching Johnson for the remainder of the contest.
Certainly the production is there for Stevie Johnson, and if this was based on production alone, you would think the Vikings would be all over him if he were to hit the open market. However, he does seem to be a bit of a loose cannon, and that might keep the Vikings from pursuing him seriously.
What do you think, folks? Is Stevie Johnson the kind of guy the Vikings should be going after?