If you follow me on Twitter or have read my comments, I have Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson as my top rated free agent wide receiver and should be the primary target for the Jacksonville Jaguars at the receiver position. Johnson is coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons and has been the Bills leading receiver the past two seasons. According to a report by the Associated Press, the two sides are still far apart in terms of contract. It's also unlikely the Bills will franchise Johnson, which would pay the wide receiver close to $10 million guaranteed for the 2012 season.
I asked Brian Galliford of Buffalo Rumblings about Stevie Johnson. Click the jump to see his scouting report on the potential free agent wide receiver.
Pros: He's not a top athlete, so he's developed a fairly unique way of running routes, which makes him very difficult to prepare for and cover one-on-one. This same skill also makes him a dangerous runner after the catch. In a lot of ways, his style resembles that of a basketball player: his movements are off-the-cuff, much like trying to beat a defender with the dribble.
Cons: He's not a top athlete, particularly in the speed department, so though he can beat defenders deep, he's not exactly going to be the type of guy that can put up six in a heartbeat the way a DeSean Jackson does. He'll go through dry spells where his hands appear to be made of stone. Everyone knows about his tendency to draw penalties when he gets too creative with his touchdown celebrations. I really believe he's a system guy; Chan Gailey designed his passing attack around getting receivers to spots, and not necessarily route concepts, to accommodate Johnson's style. That may be a problem if a coordinator is set in his ways.
I also asked Galliford if he thought there was a risk about giving Johnson a big contract in free agency, given some people's worry about his attitude and antics.
No, there's no worry about giving him a big deal - unless you're paying for the type of player Johnson clearly is not. He's young, he's talented and he's productive, and his youthful shortcomings will likely fade away as he grows up. Johnson is a marketable personality, is married with children, and is great off the field, with the fans and in the community. He's a really safe investment.
All indications right now point to Johnson not getting franchised by the Bills, regardless of the outcome of current ongoing negotiations. That obviously is subject to change.
What makes Johnson the number one free agent wide receiver more is his overall skill set and his age. It's not often a 25-year old wide receiver with his type of potential hits the open market. He's put up nearly identical numbers the past two seasons, proving he's not just a one year wonder type of player like the worry would be with someone like Laurent Robinson.