Buffalo Bills: Stevie Johnson

With two head coaches, two general managers, and three defensive coordinators since the 2012 season, the Buffalo Bills are no strangers to personnel and scheme changes.

With shifts in philosophy will come collateral damage to the salary cap. It's no surprise, then, that the Bills' dead money against their cap is the second-most in the NFL this season.

[+] EnlargeStevie Johnson
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesThe Bills were stuck with over $10 million in dead money when they traded Stevie Johnson in May.
ESPN NFL Insider Kevin Seifert breaks down each team's dead-money situation in a recent piece, noting that the Bills' $22.7 million in dead money ranks second behind the Dallas Cowboys ($23.2 million).

"Dead money" is salary-cap charges for players who are no longer on the roster. When a player is released or traded, his yearly allocation of signing bonuses against the salary cap remains.

Most of the Bills' dead money comes from releasing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ($7 million) and trading wide receiver Stevie Johnson ($10.225 million). Only quarterback Matt Schaub, who was traded by the Houston Texans earlier this offseason, counts more against his former team's cap.

Even though Fitzpatrick hasn't played for the Bills since 2012, his dead money charge ranks seventh in the NFL.

How much of a problem is dead money for the Bills? With $7.9 million in remaining cap space this season, it hasn't prevented them from doing business. It's doubtful that having less dead money would have increased the team's willingness to re-signing Jairus Byrd, for example.

However, the dead-money charges suggest that the Bills didn't make the wisest moves in extending either Fitzpatrick or Johnson.

After Fitzpatrick and the Bills began the 2011 season with a 4-2 record, with Fitzpatrick throwing 12 touchdowns in his first six games, the team gave him a six-year, $59 million extension with $24 million guaranteed. Fitzpatrick went 8-18 in the remainder of his career in Buffalo and was released after the 2012 season.

Following the 2012 season, Johnson received a five-year, $36.25 million extension. He enjoyed a productive 2012 season but ran into injury problems last season. Ultimately, the fit wasn't right for him in Doug Marrone's system, and Johnson was shipped out to make room for first-round pick Sammy Watkins.

Both cases serve as cautionary tales for more recent free-agent signings and contract extensions. Extending Aaron Williams for four seasons at $26 million, as one example, seems like a wise move now. But is Williams' level of play consistent with him being paid like top NFL safeties? That remains to be seen.
Brandon Spikes and Sammy Watkins -- in. Stevie Johnson and Jairus Byrd -- out.

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How would you grade the Bills' offseason?

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Discuss (Total votes: 2,932)

That has been the gist of the Buffalo Bills' offseason to date.

How does it compare to other teams across the NFL? On Thursday, ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando released his offseason grades Insider for each team. He combined his grades with those of four ESPN NFL analysts, including former Bills general manager Bill Polian, to help form a consensus.

For Buffalo, the grades ranged from a 'B' to a 'C-minus,' so Sando spoke to a current NFL general manager for extra perspective. Here is what he said about the Bills:

"Watkins dominated all the way through college, has rare measurables and plays with a mean streak, but if you are going to mortgage your future, you do it to get a quarterback, not a receiver," the GM said. "They gave up way too much. They mortgaged the future when they do not have a franchise quarterback, in my opinion. They will be looking for another QB in a year and they will not have a first-round pick to get him."

Sando settled on a 'C-plus' grade for the Bills, which ranks as the ninth-worst offseason in the NFL.

Let us know how you would grade the Bills' offseason in the poll above.
During the draft, the San Francisco 49ers acquired receiver Stevie Johnson from the Buffalo Bills for a conditional fourth-round pick. NFL Nation 49ers reporter Bill Williamson and Buffalo Bills reporter Mike Rodak discuss what the trade means for both teams.

Williamson: Mike, it appeared Johnson's days with the Bills were over when they moved up to take Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins with the No. 4 overall pick. Johnson was gone less than 24 hours later. Was it as simple as that?

[+] EnlargeStevie Johnson
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesThere was no room for Stevie Johnson in Buffalo, but he gives San Francisco much-needed options with three-receiver sets.
Rodak: Bill, I think the Bills had a good idea for a while that they wanted to move on from Johnson if they were able to replace him in the draft. Once they selected Watkins, it put those plans in motion, which is why Johnson was gone less than 24 hours after Watkins arrived. There were questions about Johnson's future in Buffalo dating to late last season. The problem was if the Bills were (a) able to replace his production in the offense, and (b) find the right compensation on the trade market. I think the Bills did well by receiving a conditional fourth-round pick -- it could become a third-round pick -- in return for Johnson, while Watkins should slide into Johnson's old role as the No. 1 receiver.

Many Bills fans are hoping that Johnson puts up good numbers in San Francisco, as that could trigger the Bills receiving the third-round pick instead of the fourth-round selection. What are the chances of Johnson contributing right away with the 49ers? Where does he fit on the depth chart?

Williamson: Johnson is going to play extensively. He will be the third receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. But this isn't about him being behind anyone. This is about the 49ers adding another key piece. The 49ers feel their best way of toppling Seattle is with more receiving weapons, so Johnson will get a chance to contribute a lot. The 49ers ran the fewest three-receiver sets in the NFL last year. That was mostly because of their options. They clearly will feel more comfortable with Johnson in their three-receiver sets. Still, it will be somewhat of an adjustment for the offense. Thus, it is a bit difficult to predict just how many catches Johnson will get. But it is safe to say the 49ers didn't bring him on board to put him on the bench.

Mike, do you think Johnson can thrive in San Francisco or do you think he is on the downslide?

Rodak: I think Johnson has plenty left in the tank. Last season's performance was a combination of two factors: (a) playing with a carousel of inexperienced quarterbacks -- EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel -- who weren't able to consistently get him the ball, and (b) a string of injuries that kept him out of four games. Johnson drew criticism last offseason for a perception that he didn't work out and train as extensively as he needed to. Whether that led to his injuries last season is debatable, but Johnson was at the Bills' facility for the start of their workout program this offseason and seemed ready to go at full speed. If he keeps that mentality in San Francisco, the 49ers shouldn't have any issues with Johnson. If he stays healthy, he can still be an effective receiver.

Bill, what does this trade mean for some of the other receivers on the depth chart? Jonathan Baldwin and Brandon Lloyd have tried to re-start their careers in San Francisco, while Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington are younger players in the mix. How will that all shake out?

Williamson: Baldwin is all but gone. He needed to do well last year and he couldn't produce. Lloyd was an interesting, cheap add last month. But the trade of Johnson and the drafting of the speedy Ellington changed that. Last season, when Michael Crabtree was out for the first 11 games, the 49ers got virtually nothing from their receivers other than Boldin. Now, the group of Boldin, Crabtree, Johnson, Patton (who played well down the stretch after coming back from a broken foot) and Ellington gives the 49ers one of the deepest receiving groups in the NFL. It's a stunning transformation and it will all benefit quarterback Colin Kaepernick greatly. He was terrific once Crabtree returned. With a better receiving group this year, I expect the electric Kaepernick to be stellar all season.

Mike, in closing, do you think the Bills will miss Johnson or is this trade the best for everyone?

Rodak: I think both sides will benefit. The Bills didn't have room for Johnson and it didn't make sense for him to stick around. In trading Johnson now, they clear cap space -- he was set to make about $9 million each of the next two seasons -- and also pick up a draft pick next year. Since they traded their 2015 first- and fourth-round selections to move up for Watkins, having that extra pick will help. With Watkins, Woods, and Mike Williams in the mix, I don't think the Bills will miss Johnson too much.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- That didn't take very long.

Less than 24 hours after trading up in the first round Thursday night to draft Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, the Buffalo Bills sent veteran wideout Stevie Johnson to the San Francisco 49ers on Friday afternoon for a conditional 2015 fourth-round pick.

The writing was on the wall for Johnson to be dealt. Watkins was the draft's top receiver, and after the Bills gave up their 2015 first-round pick for him, he'll also be the Bills' top target. There wasn't room for both Johnson and Watkins at the top of the depth chart.

[+] EnlargeStevie Johnson
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesStevie Johnson is the first receiver in Buffalo Bills history to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
Johnson was the Bills' leading receiver from 2010 to 2012. He rose to prominence during a brief offensive resurgence led by former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and former head coach Chan Gailey, becoming the first receiver in Bills history to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

That made Johnson the alpha male in the Bills' receiver room, but he stumbled through much of last season, missing time throughout the season with various injuries. He never seemed to click on the field with rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, and he finished with 52 catches for 597 yards, his lowest totals since 2009.

The Bills have hitched their wagon to Manuel this season and made a significant gamble to move up the draft board for Watkins. The team believes Watkins is ready to contribute "immediately" and views him as a similar talent to Julio Jones and A.J. Green.

Yes, it would be ideal if the Bills could line up Johnson and Watkins together on the same field -- much like the Atlanta Falcons do with Jones and Roddy White -- but that just wasn't in the cards. It was time to move on.

Friday's trade gives greater clarity to the Bills' depth chart at receiver. Watkins, save for any significant rookie struggles, is the unquestioned top receiver. Robert Woods, the Bills' second-round pick last season, should continue in his No. 2 role and continue to develop. Offensive coordinator Nate Hackett will find a way to fit Mike Williams, acquired via trade this offseason, and Marquise Goodwin, a third-round pick last season, into the puzzle. T.J. Graham will still be fighting for his roster spot.

But by dealing Johnson, the Bills avoid any potential headaches from Johnson, who was one of the more free-spirited and outspoken players in the locker room in recent years.

The Bills don't benefit financially from trading Johnson this offseason, but the savings will be more found over the final two years of Johnson's deal. He had a $8.85 million cap number in 2015 and a $8.95 million cap number in 2016, which the Bills will avoid with this deal.

With Johnson gone, the Bills continue to move forward with their rebuilding project under second-year general manager Doug Whaley. They're betting on Watkins helping push them into the playoffs. Johnson isn't around as insurance, but that might be for the better.

The Bills could have potentially waited until after the draft, trying to squeeze more out of a team that wasn't able to land a receiver this week. In that sense, trading away Johnson might have come earlier than expected, but the move was predictable and understandable.

Watkins is now Buffalo's guy.
The Buffalo Bills' trade Thursday night that netted Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins has implications beyond its steep cost.

Watkins
In moving up five spots to select Watkins, the Bills gave up their 2015 first- and fourth-round picks, limiting their ability to add players in next spring's draft. The implication there? The Bills better make the playoffs, or there could be another group of decision-makers calling the shots next season.

There are more immediate effects, however. Let's dive in:

No excuses for Manuel: To borrow a line from "Wedding Crashers," quarterback EJ Manuel must follow rule No. 76: "No excuses, play like a champion." If the Bills are right about Watkins, then Manuel has his No. 1 receiver. Calvin Johnson makes Matthew Stafford better, Julio Jones makes Matt Ryan better, and A.J. Green makes Andy Dalton better. If Manuel doesn't improve this season, it will be hard to justify the Bills keeping him as the starter into 2015. But it's very realistic to expect Manuel to improve. The Bills have given him what he needs to be successful and it should be a fun training camp and preseason as we potentially see Manuel mature.

Johnson
What to do with Stevie? When asked about Stevie Johnson's future Thursday night after the trade, general manager Doug Whaley told reporters that they could "pontificate" about that as they wished. Well, why not? The Bills aren't going to publicly say it, but it makes plenty of sense for the team to listen to trade offers for Johnson. He's not the Bills' No. 1 receiver anymore and with Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin looking to take a step forward in their second seasons, there could be less opportunities for Johnson. He still has three years remaining on his deal, which means the Bills wouldn't have much of a salary cap benefit by trading or releasing Johnson this offseason. I would expect the Bills to entertain offers in the coming weeks and months and make a decision by training camp if they want to do a deal or not.

lastname
Graham
What about Graham? Remember T.J. Graham? He's now buried on the Bills' depth chart at wide receiver. A former third-round pick, you could argue Graham is now as low as No. 6 on the Bills' depth chart. He won't push Watkins, Woods, or Johnson (if he remains) for playing time and barring Mike Williams being a complete disappointment, Graham won't surpass his playing time, either. Graham will need to push Goodwin for a role, but it still would be shocking if Goodwin was cut after just one season. With special teams captain Marcus Easley also part of the mix at wide receiver, Graham will need to hope for an injury or Johnson's departure if he is to make the team. Graham started six games last season, and aside from a few deep catches was generally a disappointment.

Tight end, tackle skipped over: We'll go more in-depth into the Bills' second- and third-round options later Friday, but by trading up for Watkins, the Bills passed up selecting a tight end or offensive tackle at No. 9. They could target either of those positions on Day 2, but for right now, Scott Chandler remains their starting tight end, with Tony Moeaki his only true competition on the depth chart. The Bills remain shaky at right tackle, with Erik Pears and Chris Hairston potentially battling for the starting job if the Bills don't pick up a lineman Friday night.

Bills draft preview: Wide receiver

April, 11, 2014
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As we step away on vacation, we'll provide a position-by-position preview of next month's draft from a Buffalo Bills perspective:

Position: Wide receiver

Current personnel: Steve Johnson (signed through 2016), Mike Williams (2018), Robert Woods (2016), T.J. Graham (2015), Marquise Goodwin (2016), Marcus Easley (2014), Chris Hogan (2014 tender), Ramses Barden (2015), Kevin Elliott (2014), Cordell Roberson (2015), Brandon Kaufman (2015), Chris Summers (2015)

Draft need: Moderate-to-low

State of the position: This is a hard position to pin down. Theoretically, the top of the depth chart should be set for the next several years, with Johnson, Williams, and Woods all under contract for at least the next three seasons. Even then, it's tough to say whether Johnson or Williams will play out their deals in Buffalo. Johnson has cap numbers approaching $9 million in each of the remaining years of his contract, putting him at risk of being a salary-cap casualty. His production has been good but may not justify that sort of salary.

Williams, on the other hand, was jettisoned from Tampa in part due to off-field issues. If those crop up again in Buffalo, would the Bills tolerate him? It's a question worth pondering. If Williams puts up the same numbers that he did in his first three seasons with the Buccaneers, he'll be a significant part of the Bills' offense, but the possibility also exists that he doesn't bounce back from a hamstring injury last season and is relegated to a lesser role.

Beyond Johnson and Williams, the Bills have used a second-round pick (in 2013, for Woods) and two second-round picks (in 2012, for Graham and in 2013, for Goodwin) and may have enough young talent to justify not drafting another receiver. But with Graham's future in Buffalo iffy, it wouldn't be shocking if the Bills drafted a taller receiver in the late rounds to compete for a roster spot. The chances of Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans coming to Buffalo, however, are slim.

Sweet spot: Second round or later.

Possible targets: Brandon Coleman (Rutgers), Cody Latimer (Indiana), Devin Street (Pittsburgh)
Happy Monday. We've arrived at what is typically the busiest week of the NFL offseason.

Since Saturday, teams have been able to enter into talks with opposing teams' free agents. Starting Tuesday at 4 p.m., deals can become official.

Until then, let's recap what we've learned over the past few days:

1. The Bills will need to make a decision on several players who are due large roster bonuses this week. Quarterback Kevin Kolb ($1 million) and linebacker Manny Lawson ($500,000) are both due roster bonuses on Thursday. On Saturday, the Bills owe wide receiver Stevie Johnson a $1.75 million roster bonus. Last week, Bills general manager Doug Whaley addressed Kolb's situation with John Kryk of the Toronto Sun. "It's a tricky situation," Whaley told Kryk. "We're going to be very careful how we handle this, and the foremost consideration in the whole equation is him being healthy." It would be a surprise if Kolb remains with the team past this week. Lawson and Johnson are longer shots to be released but their situations still bear watching.

2. Last week, the Bills hosted linebackers Jameel McClain and Jasper Brinkley, who were both released by their former teams. Brinkley could be off the market soon, as Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo reported Sunday that the Minnesota Vikings will bring back Brinkley on a one-year deal. Meanwhile, McClain will still meet with the Vikings on Monday, reports 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson. We ranked linebacker as the Bills' top free-agent need and we wouldn't be surprised if the Bills made a play to sign one of the top free-agent linebackers available. Jon Beason and Karlos Dansby are among those who are hitting the open market this week.

3. ESPN.com Miami Dolphins reporter James Walker reported Monday that safety Jairus Byrd is seeking a deal that pays him at least $9 million per season. That would make Byrd the highest-paid safety in the NFL, at least in terms of average salary per season. The NFL Network reported over the weekend that the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams have expressed interest in Byrd.

4. While Tuesday is the start of the free-agent signing period, it's also the first day that teams can complete trades. At this point, don't rule out activity on that end from the Bills.

Top takeaways from scouting combine

February, 23, 2014
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Sunday marks the final day of access to players, coaches, and general managers at the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis.

Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley both spoke to reporters last week, providing a few nuggets as the team progresses through the offseason.

Here's our biggest takeaways from Marrone and Whaley:

Manuel
1. Bills won't draft a quarterback in the first round: Typically general managers will shy away from ruling out any options in the draft, but Whaley made it clear Friday that the Bills will not select a quarterback with their first-round pick. "With the way our roster's set up right now, besides quarterback, we could go with any position," Whaley said, according to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News. The Bills don't seem keen on the idea of drafting a quarterback in the first round in back-to-back seasons, which is an idea that has been bounced around since EJ Manuel suffered his third knee injury in December. While Whaley shut the door on that possibility, the debate remains the same: How should the Bills go about hedging their bets with Manuel, and are they making a mistake by not leaving the first-round possibility on the table?

2. Marrone reaches out to Stevie Johnson: One of the more complex personalities within the Bills' locker room is wide receiver Stevie Johnson, whose long-term future with the team has been clouded by a large roster bonus due next month. Johnson played through several injuries last season, one which ended early after the death of his mother in December. On Thursday, Marrone was asked about a report that the coaching staff had trouble connecting with Johnson last season. Graham lays out the background to the question and Marrone's answer.

Byrd
3. Bills meeting with Byrd's agent: The Bills continue to take the stance that they want safety Jairus Byrd, who is set to become a free agent next month, back with the team. They met with Byrd's agents Saturday, as noted by Graham, which is a fairly common occurrence between teams and agents at the combine. Still, Whaley publicly continued to express interest in a long-term deal with the three-time Pro Bowler. "We as an organization, again, we're going to leave every option open for Jairus, because we would like him back," Whaley said. The Bills have until March 3 to assign Byrd the franchise tag.

4. Dareus extension on radar: Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus made his first Pro Bowl last month, and despite being benched for parts of the final two games after being late to team meetings, the Bills are apparently interested in keeping the former third-overall pick around for the long-term. Whaley was asked about the possibility of a contract extension for Dareus, and said: "It’s on our radar, but right now we prioritize things." Dareus, like other first-round picks, has a team option in his deal that would keep him under contract through the 2015 season.

5. Whaley would take the "bigger guy:" This year's quarterback class is considered stronger than last year, when the Bills took Manuel off the board at 16th overall. WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia relays an exchange where a reporter asked Whaley how he would rank Manuel if he was part of the 2014 draft class. "Oooh. Good question," Whaley said. "I would have to say he would be talked in the top tier of those guys. Just with his size and athletic ability, you looked at the measurements now, there was only one guy close to his size and that was Blake Bortles at 6-5, and AJ McCarron was over the 6-3, so he's in there. I'm a big proponent that everything equal, you go with the bigger guy."

Williams
6. Mario Williams' cap hit a "non-issue:" Few NFL players will eat up more salary cap space this season than defensive end Mario Williams. The Pro Bowler will account for $18.8 million against the cap, but Whaley downplayed the possibility that the Bills would restructure Williams' contract. "At this time, non-issue. We're comfortable where it is right now," Whaley said, according to Buscaglia.

7. Kiko on the move? When we spoke to former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine last season about Kiko Alonso, Pettine pointed out that Alonso could play any of the linebacker spots within the defense. While the Bills' best bet is to keep Alonso -- who did not come off the field last season -- as their "Mike" linebacker, Whaley didn't rule out the chance of moving Alonso to outside linebacker in Jim Schwartz's scheme. "He would excel there, just like he excelled at middle linebacker," Whaley said, according to Graham. "But either way -- middle linebacker, 'Will' or 'Sam' -- we think this guy's going to have a bright future."

Examining potential Bills cap cuts

February, 3, 2014
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With Super Bowl XLVIII in the books, Monday is the first official day of the 2014 NFL offseason.

It's also the first day teams can release players who are under contract for next season. In some cases, teams might release players to free up salary-cap room. In other cases, the team might determine the player isn't valued as highly in a new scheme.

Both scenarios could come into play with the Buffalo Bills. The NFL hasn't announced an exact salary cap for next season, but the Bills are currently projected to be in the middle of the pack in terms of cap space.

While the Bills will have sufficient cap space to make free-agent moves this offseason, it's typical for some players to be released for financial purposes. Here's our best guess which players could be on the outs in Buffalo:

Kolb
QB Kevin Kolb: What's not clear is how Kolb has recovered from an August concussion that ended his season. What is clear is that the Bills view EJ Manuel as their starting quarterback entering next season, so Kolb -- even if healthy -- would enter the offseason as a backup. With a $3.6 million cap number, including a $1 million roster bonus, it's hard to see that happening. It would be a surprise if Kolb remains on the roster at the start of the 2014 league year in March.

WR Stevie Johnson: Johnson could be one of the toughest calls the Bills make this offseason. He's under contract through 2016, so by releasing him now, the Bills would have to absorb significant "dead money" this season. The true savings in releasing Johnson would come in 2015 and 2016. If the Bills feel like Johnson isn't a fit within their offense, they could make the decision to cut ties with him now. He's due a $1.75 million roster bonus in March that essentially sets a deadline for that decision to happen. Unless they want to take a larger "dead money" hit, they can't wait until May to see if Sammy Watkins, the top receiver in the draft, is still on the board at ninth overall.

Moeaki
TE Tony Moeaki: Once Moeaki recovered from a preseason injury last season, he signed a two-year contract with the Bills. He's due a $1 million base salary, a $250,000 roster bonus, and a $100,000 workout bonus this offseason, which suggests the Bills had competition in signing him. Still, Moeaki did not play an offensive snap after being signed in early December. If the Bills feel like things will come together with Moeaki by next season, perhaps he'll stay in the fold under his current deal. If not, it's possible they cut ties with him.

OT Erik Pears: Pears started 16 games this season for the Bills, but there have been indications that the Bills want to upgrade along their offensive line. The journeyman right tackle turns 32 in June and has a $3.75 million cap number. The Bills could deem that too rich for a position they could target in May's draft. This could be a case where the Bills could ask Pears to restructure in order to remain in Buffalo.

OT Chris Hairston: Hairston, who spent all of last season on the non-football illness list, has a cap hit of about $750,000. That's not significant on its own, but it's also not clear where Hairston stands health-wise. If he can't pass a physical or can't participate in the offseason program, he could be released. Hairston started 15 games between 2011 and 2012, but it's not known how the current coaching staff views the former fourth-round pick.

OLB Manny Lawson: The potential for Lawson to be released moves onto the radar under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Lawson is considered to better fit in Mike Pettine's defensive scheme, where the 'Sam' linebacker plays closer to the line of scrimmage and is used more as a blitzer. In Schwartz's system, both outside linebackers typically play off the line of scrimmage and are used 'in space,' requiring better athleticism. Lawson will turn 30 this summer and doesn't have excellent range as an off-the-line player. Even though Lawson brought a veteran presence to the locker room, it's possible the Bills look to restructure his contract or release him. He has a $3.1 million cap number this season, but is signed through 2016, so like Johnson, the cap savings would come down the road.

How the Bills handle trash talking

January, 29, 2014
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With a 6-10 record, the Buffalo Bills didn't have much fodder for trash talk this season.

But before the season started? Well, that's different. Prior to the Bills' regular season opener, often-outspoken receiver Stevie Johnson said the New England Patriots did not have "anybody that could stop me."

Johnson
Johnson was held to three catches for 39 yards in the game and dropped a critical third-and-1 pass that may have changed the result of the contest, a 23-21 Bills loss. It was the beginning of a long, disappointing season for Johnson, but head coach Doug Marrone seemed to have little problem with Johnson's pregame proclamation.

"People have to be who they are," Marrone said on Sept. 9. "You guys are going to ask tough questions, and you want them to answer it. You want people to be who they are and what they do. As long as it's not a standpoint of giving away any strategic information. ...I think that's where I would have a problem with it."

In the wake of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman taking trash-talk with San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree to the national airwaves, we're examining how each head coach handles trash-talking on his team.

In the case of the Bills, Marrone's answer back in Week 1 makes his opinion clear. On a scale of red (not allowed), yellow (within reason) and green (go for it), Marrone's stance on trash talking is: Green.
Back in September, we broke down the Buffalo Bills' 53-man roster, position-by-position. Now that the Bills' season has ended, we'll review those grades:

Position: Wide receiver (preseason grades)

SNAP COUNTS
Robert Woods -- 78.4 percent
T.J. Graham -- 70.9 percent
Stevie Johnson -- 60.4 percent
Marquise Goodwin -- 27.0 percent
Chris Hogan -- 16.1 percent
Marcus Easley -- 5.3 percent

DEPTH

Preseason take: Absent Woods or Goodwin being a major disappointment, the Bills are deep at receiver. The one question mark lies in the No. 2 receiver: Is it Woods or Graham? Since the Bills anticipate playing a majority of three-receiver sets, that may not necessarily matter on paper. However, if an opponent's top cornerback is able to take away Johnson, then Woods or Graham will need to step up and put defenses on notice. Grade: A-

Postseason review: Neither Woods nor Goodwin was a disappointment, but the oversight here may have been with Graham. In terms of snap counts, Woods and Graham wound up as the top two receivers. However, if Stevie Johnson played a full 16 games -- he missed four games -- then Graham's playing time would have slipped. For being on the field nearly three-quarters of the time, finishing with 23 receptions was a disappointment for the second-year receiver. Had Graham picked up more slack for Johnson's absence, then the depth at this position would have been better, but this grade was too generous.

RELIABILITY

Preseason take: Johnson has played three consecutive 16-game seasons, but missed time this training camp with a hamstring injury. Another tweak could always keep him out a game or two, but that isn't a major concern. As with most receivers coming out of the draft, there will be questions with Woods and Goodwin until they prove themselves on a consistent basis. Dropped passes in particular are something to look out for with Woods. Grade: B

Postseason review: Johnson did miss two games after tweaking his lower back, and later, his hip. He also battled through hamstring and groin issues for parts of the season, so injuries were more than a minor concern for the Bills' top receiver. Meanwhile, Woods missed time with an ankle injury and Goodwin broke his hand before dealing with hamstring, elbow, and knee injuries later in the season. When they were on the field, both rookies made strides towards proving themselves, but because of the rash of injuries at this position, this grade should have been lower.

Stevie Johnson, Aaron Williams ruled out

December, 27, 2013
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- In addition to naming Thad Lewis as their starter for Sunday's season finale against the New England Patriots, the Buffalo Bills ruled out wide receiver Stevie Johnson and safety Aaron Williams for the game.

Johnson remains in California following the death of his mother, whose funeral was held Friday.

Williams injured his ribs in a Week 15 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars and did not practice this week.

Quarterback EJ Manuel is doubtful for the game, but has not been officially ruled out.

"It’s a game-day decision, but you’re talking about a player that had a 25 percent chance of playing so we’ll list him like that. Thad will be our starter and then you'll see how the inactives go because there's still a chance of a million things that can happen," Marrone said. "God forbid something happens to Thad, something happens to Jeff [Tuel], we might have to pull Dennis Dixon up. There’s just a lot of things for me to have go ahead and say this is definitely what we’re doing."

Here is the full injury report from Friday:

OUT
S Aaron Williams (ribs; did not participate)
WR Stevie Johnson (personal; did not participate)

DOUBTFUL
QB EJ Manuel (knee; limited participation)

PROBABLE
WR Marcus Easley (knee; limited participation)
WR Marquise Goodwin (knee; full participation)
QB Thad Lewis (left shoulder; full participation)
DT Kyle Williams (Achilles; full participation)
RB Fred Jackson (ribs; full participation)

EJ Manuel present for start of practice

December, 24, 2013
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (knee) warmed up with his teammates at the start of Tuesday's practice.

Manuel
It was unclear how much Manuel participated in practice beyond that. Coach Doug Marrone will provide an update of Manuel's status around 1:30 p.m. ET.

Manuel missed Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins after he experienced swelling in his left knee. Marrone said last week that he was "110 percent confident" that Manuel would play this Sunday, but sounded less confident during his Monday news conference.

The Bills travel to play the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Stevie Johnson (personal), running back Fred Jackson (ribs) and safety Aaron Williams (ribs) were not spotted at the start of Tuesday's practice.

The funeral for Johnson's mother will be held Friday in California, Marrone said Monday.

Johnson, Williams officially ruled out

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
12:18
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Wide receiver Stevie Johnson (personal) and safety Aaron Williams (ribs) have officially been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.

Williams
Williams
Johnson traveled to California following the death of his mother last weekend, and Williams was injured in last Sunday's win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Aaron Williams loves football," Bills coach Doug Marrone said. "For that kid to be hurting, I mean he has ... I don't know if anybody has ever had that injury. I have. That's probably one of the most painful."

Meanwhile, Marrone said tight end Tony Moeaki, who has been inactive in two games since signing with Buffalo, will be active Sunday.

OUT
WR Stevie Johnson (personal; did not participate)
QB EJ Manuel (knee; did not participate)
S Aaron Williams (ribs; did not participate)

PROBABLE
DT Marcell Dareus (ankle; full participation)
RB Fred Jackson (ribs; full participation)
CB Brandon Smith (ankle; full participation)
DT Kyle Williams (Achilles; full participation)

Stevie Johnson likely out for Sunday

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
4:10
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson is not expected to play in Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins after being excused from the team.

Johnson
Johnson's mother died unexpectedly last Saturday, but he played in Sunday's win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I don't believe that he will be available for our game on Sunday," coach Doug Marrone said. "Our thoughts and our prayers are with Stevie and his family."

The status of safety Aaron Williams, who left Sunday's game with an injury to his ribs, is up in the air.

"I think Aaron is going to be 50-50," Marrone said. I can't really say right now either way, so we're going to be monitoring that situation and going through that treatment process."

Veterans Fred Jackson (ribs) and Kyle Williams (Achilles) were both held out of Wednesday's practice for extra rest.

Here is the Bills' full injury report from Wednesday:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
S Aaron Williams (ribs)
DT Kyle Williams (Achilles)
RB Fred Jackson (ribs)
WR Stevie Johnson (personal)

LIMITED IN PRACTICE
CB Brandon Smith (ankle)
DT Marcell Dareus (ankle)
QB EJ Manuel (knee)

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