Should We Show Stevie ‘The Money’?

Quickly think of the top ten WR’s you would name in the NFL in no particular order. That’s exactly what we did here over the past day in an effort to gauge where people would rank the best of the best and figure out where our own emerging star at WR sat.

It’s no secret that the Bills and WR Steve Johnson are at a cross roads in regards to a new contract. Reports indicate that Steve Johnson wants above $9 Million dollars per year on a multi-year deal, the Bills are believed to be a bit lower than that though nothing has leaked out. The thing is that with a $9 million dollar price tag and long term commitment Jim Overdorf and the rest of the Bills front office is having to take a long look at just how good Steve Johnson is right now and is he worth top ten WR money?

We took to the internet to find our answer and since the internet never lies we asked the question of football fans, name us the top ten WR’s in the NFL. We got 20 pretty quick responses and here is who they named in order and with the vote totals next to the player:

Calvin Johnson-20
Andre Johnson-20
Larry Fitzgerald-20
Roddy White-19
Wes Welker-16
Mike Wallace-13
Greg Jennings-13
Hakeem Nicks-13
Steve Smith-12
Vincent Jackson-12
AJ Green-8
Brandon Marshall-8
Dez Bryant-6
Dwayne Bowe-5
Reggie Wayne-3
Miles Austin-3
Victor Cruz-3
Anquan Boldin-2
Jordy Nelson-1
Jeremy Maclin-1
Steve Johnson-1
Brandon Lloyd-1
Desean Jackson-1

That’s 23 names that got votes and as you will notice only one of them was Steve Johnson. Does this mean he’s not a top 10 WR? Not necessarily but let’s look deeper and see what the numbers say. Steve Johnson currently ranks 21st in total receiving yards with 872, he is also 21st in TD’s with six. Does this mean that Johnson is not a top 10 WR? No, not necessarily given our struggles with consistent OL and QB play, our offensive scheme to spread the ball around, and the way our offense has not produced the last few weeks it would be tough for any of the WR’s above to remain top 10 statistically.

So what makes a #1 WR then? If it’s not fan opinion or straight statistics then what is it? Well part of that is how clutch a WR is, does he make big catches in big moments or does he disappear? To be fair to Steve Johnson he’s had both his share of big catches and big drops. We all recall the drops last year and this year, the blaming of God incident and all the bad stuff, but who reading this honestly remembers the way he abused Revis twice. We always remember the bad moments in Steve’s still early career but not the good ones.

Let’s keep in mind that we drafted Steve Johnson in the 7th Round in 2006 out of the University of Kentucky. Johnson was an extremely productive WR at UK but didn’t have elite size or speed. Coming into his rookie season most fans weren’t even sure he’d make the team let alone one day become our #1 WR. Steve Johnson has developed over the past few years as a WR, he’s become more than just a WR with good hands and turned into a WR who runs good routes, is deceptive with his speed, and who can make big catches down the field.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention all that Steve Johnson does off the field as well. His antics and personality may rub some the wrong way but he breathes life into a team and organization that has become stagnant and boring. Johnson is not Marshawn Lynch whose antics eventually evolved into off the field trouble but rather Steve Johnson seems to be a guy who just wants to have some old fashion fun. He has come to this city with open arms and is consistently rocking Buffalo gear for the city, the Sabres, and the Bills whenever he is out in public or on TV. He’s exactly the kind of guy you want to try and breathe new life into a team and city that desperately needs it.

That’s not to say his antics are always well received, we all recall the Jets game celebration that drew a 15 yard penalty and his twitter rant about God after dropping passes last year that could be considered an embarrassment to this team. Johnson has since apologized for both and we take him at his word on that.

So the question that still remains to be answered and that we’ve skirted around long enough is that is Steve Johnson a top 10 NFL WR? Our answer is that as of today he is not. He’s not far off either, if we had to list out top 10 it would go;

Calvin Johnson
Andre Johnson
Larry Fitzgerald
Wes Welker
Roddy White
Vincent Jackson
Mike Wallace
Hakeem Nicks
Dez Bryant
AJ Green

We would however rank Johnson ahead of guys like Miles Austin, Brandon Marshall, Reggie Wayne, Victor Cruz, Anquan Boldin and others who received votes. In the end we see Johnson in the 12-15 range in terms of arbitrary rankings.

We love the fact that Steve Johnson is on this team, we love what he brings to the field, we love what the energy he has, and we love how he’s embraced this city and its fans. However that doesn’t mean we want to break the bank to keep him and limit our options to bring him in more help around him. In our ideal world the Bills and Johnson meet somewhere in the middle. They settle around $8.25 million a year and we lock up Steve for 4-5 years with a decent sized signing bonus and plenty of reachable bonuses based on production.

However we don’t live in a perfect world and we can’t fault a player for trying to maximize his value in this short window we call a “career”. We want Steve Johnson to be a part of this team for years to come, and we hope the Bills front office and his agent can make that happen. He represents some of the few things that are going right for this team developmentally and is a guy you can build around long term.

Losing Johnson wouldn’t be a death blow to the franchise but it would hurt and replacing him with rookies or other free agents doesn’t make a lot of sense. The biggest part about building through the draft is keeping the players you’ve drafted and developed, just ask New England. If Buffalo wants to show it’s for real about winning, its for real about this city, and its fans it needs to negotiate fairly with Steve Johnson and get a deal done.

Tags: Buffalo Bills, Free Agency, NFL, Steve Johnson, WR

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