- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Buffalo Bills are approaching the final weeks to exclusively negotiate with leading receiver Steve Johnson. The team is expected to continue talks with Johnson's representation at the NFL combine but reportedly remain far apart.
I've said all along that keeping Johnson in Buffalo is 50-50. The Bills have a firm idea of his worth to the team, and Johnson wants to be paid like a franchise receiver. Neither side has been able to close that gap since last year.
But in the event Johnson hits the open market next month and finds a more lucrative offer, the Bills must have a Plan B. Could that include Kansas City Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe? There are reasons Bowe, an unrestricted free agent, and the Bills could be a match.
Bills coach Chan Gailey was Kansas City's offensive coordinator in 2008, when Bowe set a career-high with 86 receptions. Gailey knows what Bowe can do, and Bowe proved he can fit in Gailey's offense.
Bowe and Johnson have put up comparable numbers the past two seasons. But Bowe is a more physical specimen and bigger game-breaker than Johnson. The Bills' front office may not want to pay Johnson approximately $8 million per season, but they may be willing to do that for Bowe. The AFC East blog ran a poll on how much Buffalo should pay Johnson, and a majority of readers picked $5-$7 million.
This is a strong year for free-agent receivers. Players like Johnson, Bowe, Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne and Marques Colston all have a chance to hit the open market.
The Bills need to find a No. 1 receiver if they strike out with Johnson, and Bowe has the strongest connection to the coaching staff.