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And the TV camera crews in South Florida have outdone themselves tracking down Peyton Manning from the air and the ground.
All that anyone really cares about, is where the 4-time NFL MVP goes next to play quarterback.
It’s been widely reported that a dozen NFL teams have inquired about Manning since the Indianapolis Colts released him Wednesday at noon. And later Wednesday, when Manning flew to South Florida to stay at his Miami beach condo, the Dolphins immediately became the fashionable pick to land the gifted passer.
But Manning really hasn’t said much at all about his free agency plans. He’s in the drivers’ seat, to be sure–the ultimate free agent. He may be the most sought after free agent in NFL history, when it’s all said and done. And that’s pretty remarkable, given that Manning did not play a down in the 2011 season, and has had multiple surgical procedures on his neck in the last few years.
Manning is likely to have several options. But he may not have a lot of time to make his decision. With free agency opening up next Tuesday, and roster bonuses coming due on several other NFL players, it’s expected Peyton’s place in the NFL will be decided in the next 5-6 days.
NFL sources tell us the 14-year veteran is headed west in the next few days to talk to a couple of teams. We’re told Manning has a meeting scheduled with the Denver Broncos tomorrow, and a weekend session with the Arizona Cardinals on the agenda. It’s expected both teams will want to give Manning a thorough physical and watch him throw, so they can gauge for themselves whether he’ll be fully rehabilitated and able to throw a football effectively when training camp opens.
I’m sticking with my prediction from Wednesday–I think Manning will wind up with the Cardinals. They’re ready to pay him, obviously. But what they really offer Manning is Larry Fitzgerald, the most talented WR in the game right now. They have an offensive-minded coach, Ken Whisenhunt, who won’t let his ego get in the way of Peyton’s preference for autonomy when it comes to play selection. They have a capable defense and they play in a division that should allow them to compete right away.
I’m thinking Peyton may like what he sees in the Valley of the Sun this weekend, and he may not leave without a contract.
If the NFL Scouting Combine is the unofficial start of the 2012 preseason, which I believe it is, then it’s not too early to start thinking about what the 2012 season means to the Bills. In particular, what does it mean for GM Buddy Nix and Head Coach Chan Gailey, as they go into their third season with the Bills?
In the old days, 3-5 years was viewed as a reasonable time for a new football regime to build a contender. These are not the old days. Now, most teams expect to see serious results by at least the third year of a regime. In the case of the Bills, whose fans have not enjoyed a playoff appearance in a dozen seasons, serious progress is essential this year.
That puts some pressure on Nix and Gailey. And I get the sense they realize that.
The Bills have endured a string of crippling injuries the last two seasons, there’s no question about that. But they’ve also managed to lose eight straight games at the start of the 2010 season, and seven in a row midway through the 2011 campaign. Those kind of losing streaks suck the life and soul right out of a football organization.
I think the Bills have made progress in the last two seasons, despite winning a total of ten games in 2010 and 2011. They’ve found their quarterback, they have put together a viable, sometimes dangerous offensive attack. They have a core group of hard working young players who love to play the game. And they’ve taken significant steps forward in changing the culture of the Bills organizaton.
But now, in 2012, they have to win some games. They have to make the postseason, or at least come extremely close.
Nix acknowledged as much when we spoke to him at the Combine.
“I expect us to take a big step,” he said. “I expect us to be competitive towards the end of the year. I don’t mind saying that. I think any time you have a seven game losing streak there’s a lot of reasons, but there’s no excuses. We gotta be better.”
They have to be better. And the first steps towards being better this year are taking place right here at the Scouting Combine.
Let us know what you think.
It’s an opti0n for the Buffalo Bills, and it’s an option they’re wisely not going to dismiss right now. But I don’t think they’ll use a franchise tag to keep Stevie Johnson on the roster this year.
At the NFL combine in Indianapolis, I spoke today with Bills GM Buddy Nix about the possibility of tagging Stevie, with the deadline for use of the tag approaching (Monday March 5th.)
“ I think there’s an upside and downside to it,” Nix told me. “The downside is the amount of cap hit that you take, it uses up an awful lot of cap space in one year. But, again it’s something that you got, and you got a chance to use it if you want to, so it’s an option.”
It would make little sense for Nix and the Bills to dismiss the chance of using the franchise tag on Stevie right now. It’s some of the best leverage they have, as they move into serious talks with the WR this afternoon. But I think that’s all it will amount to–leverage. I think the Bills are determined to get Johnson’s deal done in the next two and a half weeks, before he hits the free agent market. And I think they’re eventually going to settle on a number from $7.5-$8-million per year.
That kind of money would make Johnson a clear-cut #1 WR on the Bills roster.
Still up for debate, I believe–is Stevie really a bona fide #1 WR in the NFL? I asked Nix that this morning and got an interesting response.
“He’s our number one right now. But in the league, I don’t know whether he would be or not,” he replied.
It’s going to get interesting in the next couple of weeks.
While Stevie Johnson maybe an offensive player, I’m here to tell you the Bills need to be DEFENSIVE with their soon-to-be free agent wide receiver. They need to make sure he doesn’t walk out of Buffalo without the Bills getting anything in return.
That means they need to play tag with Johnson. They need to put the franchise or transition tag on him.
Yes, the $9.4 million dollars a year franchise tag is way too much for what Johnson’s worth. But the Bills are not up against the salary cap, so it doesn’t really matter. They can handle that amount and it shouldn’t effect their ability to make other moves. It’s about protecting an asset until THEY decide what to do. It’s about not letting a young, talented and valuable player leave for nothing. It’s not about that inflated dollar amount, it’s about being defensive and covering yourself. If you can sign a free agent wideout like a Dwayne Bowe, then you drop the tag and let Stevie walk. If you’ve decided you want another type of receiver (non-celebration focused category), then you trade Stevie. But you have that option if you tag him. You can also let Stevie play the season on the tag, and then make a decision next year.
Don’t forget the transition tag is also still available, at a lesser price and without any compensation.
Plus, a tag on Stevie would allow negotiations to continue while Johnson also knows he’ll get big bucks this coming season. But none of it is guaranteed, a reason why the player doesn’t usually want the tag. But so what.
I don’t think Johnson is worth paying #1 receiver money. I think the Bills need to find their top guy in the draft or free agency. But I do understand that guy isn’t here yet, and letting Stevie depart leaves a big hole in the offense. So this plan is the best way to protect the team, maintain the asset and allow them to keep looking for an upgrade. That may be the best defensive game plan we’ll have seen all year.
Everybody is talking about Stevie Johnson and his benching against the Patriots. There are a lot of levels with this story. The celebration, the benching, the team reaction, the free agency/contract effect on Stevie.
I’ll break them down one by one.
The Celebration: Stevie raises his uniform to show a hand-written “Happy New Year!!” Same thing he did in Cincinnati last year. He wasn’t penalized then, but fined later. This time he gets an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. But why do it? You’re already on thin ice with your celebrations. So why push it? Why is it so hard to spike the ball or hand it to an official. Stevie’s already popular in WNY. What more is he looking for? Besides, he should have know better, because…..
The Benching: Stevie knew that Chan Gailey had told the team the next player to get a celebration penalty would be benched. He knew that. He should have known it was mostly directed at him. I don’t care that he didn’t think he’d get a penalty, because one wasn’t called in Cincinnati last year. Be smart. Don’t push it. You know you’re Coach isn’t happy with you after the Jets game. He had to know this would be pushing his buttons. He had to know Chan wasn’t messing around. This is a total lack of judgement from Johnson. Either that, or he’s ridiculously oblivious to all the warnings. I totally agree with Gailey. Call him old school if you want. That’s OK with me. We need that discipline around here. It’s how you learn to win. Stevie needed to be accountable, just like every other player. Don’t tell me Chan hurt the Bills chances to win. That’s on Stevie, not Chan. A bigger message needed to be sent than one game.
The Team Effect: This is over-rated. Some players will think Stevie got dissed. Others will be mad at him for taking himself off the field. But listening to George Wilson talk after the game, the sage veteran voice says Stevie needs to learn and not make the same mistakes. Bingo. That’s one player saying enough already. Players understand that discipline is part of football, and a key part of the formula for winning.
The Free Agency Effect: I don’t think this issue has a huge impact, but it adds to the list. Stevie’s judgement is a concern. If you’re going to give him a big, new deal, you better have faith in him as a player, person and leader. What has Stevie done to foster any of that? It’s part of the whole consideration. I believe he is a good, not great receiver. Probably a solid #2 in a perfect situation. A thousand yards is good, but only 1 100 yard game? That’s not good enough for 7-8 million dollars. He’s just not athletic enough. The Bills need a true #1 wideout, and I don’t think Stevie is that. I would try to sign him at my price, 5-6 million. No more. I doubt Stevie could get much more unless a team overpays. Would it create a hole? Yes. Can that hole be filled? Yes. A free agent or a draft pick. Easily. You can’t overpay just because the departure would create a hole. You set a price, and stick to it. Maybe being the Bills #2 receiver would make Stevie tone it down, and stick to football.
I like Stevie Johnson. He’s a good guy, and a good player. He has a fun, fresh effect on the locker room. But he has to grow up. He’s not good enough to get away with this stuff.
I would like the Bills to keep him, but at a resonable price. No more. If he leaves, you just go get more receivers who can equal his production. It’s how the NFL works. He’s not good enough to break the bank. Save that for a real #1 receiver the Bills desperately need.
I guess I’ll be the latest to heap abuse on Stevie Johnson. What he did today was a joke. Plaxico Burress, the subject of his ill-timed and ill-conceived celebration dance, summed it up best when he responded by pointing out that Johhnson did drop the potential game winning touchdown.
When is this going to stop with Stevie? When are we going to start believing that football is more important to him than his rap career, his public relations and his attention-grabbing dances? I sense we won’t see that until Stevie’s wearing another team’s uniform.
The TD dance was dumb, and makes you wonder how much thought and planning he put into the act, and how much time he spent on it? Was it planned to grab attention in New York City, the world’s attention-getting capital? He would have gotten away with it, until he fell to the turf like a grounded jet. That’s what actually drew the penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, not the dance. It might have not been so bad, or gotten so much attention if Johnson hadn’t dropped the pass late in the game. But the football gods don’t appreciate being mocked, and they provided their payback. So once again, we’re talking about everything but a very good game against Darrelle Revis, the NFL’s best cornerback.
Johnson is a free agent after the season, and he’s been angling for a new contract. Good luck with that now. Does he really think he deserves #1 receiver money? Does he really think he’ll get it from the Bills? I have to think they’re tired of his act. Is he a good player? Yes. Are there a lot of good receivers? Yes. Can the Bills find one who isn’t such a pain in the neck? Absolutely. It’s Stevie’s own actions and conduct that may cost him the big money deal he so desires.
So the the money’s probably gone, and so is the Bills faith in him as a #1 receiver. I would expect to see another reciver drafted pretty high in the draft.
That plan could leave Stevie dancing…right out of Buffalo.
If you want to see an aircraft-carrier sized rock miss earth by 200,000 miles, you can use a telescope with a six-inch mirror at 6:28 p.m.
If you want to check where your polling place is before Tuesday, you can find it on the Board of Elections website.
A couple of key points about Sunday’s Bills-Jets game popped into my head. Both are major factors for the game, and topics that have been discussed through the week.
Darrelle Revis: I think he is the best cornerback in the NFL, but I think the Bills are uniquely suited to neutralize his effect. Revis will likely spend a lot of time on Stevie Johnson, and that should reduce what the Bills get from their top WR. But there may not be another team that can overcome that better than the Bills. That’s because all season long, the Bills passing game hasn’t been about one guy or a top receiver. While Johnson is good, is not a dominating #1 receiver like a Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson. So even if he’s “taken out” by Revis, it won’t cripple the Buffalo passing game. Fizpatrick will just look for Jones, Chandler, Spiller, Roosevelt, Nelson or Jackson. You watch. Those guys will more than account for the production the Bills would normally get from Stevie. So as good as Revis is, his ability to take out Johnson won’t handcuff the passing game.
Jets Run Game: There’s been a lot of talk about how the Jets ran over the Bills last season. They did, but they are not the same offense. LaDainian Tomlinson is averaging less than 5 carries per game. Shon Greene has not been very effective, and the Jets rushing game is only 28th in the NFL. They don’t have Brad Smith, who ripped off some big runs last year. Plus, the Buffalo offense should not allow NY to have the big lead they need to pound the ball. That’s a big reason why they had such big totals. If the Bills score some points, and keep this game close, the Jets won’t be able to hand off every play in the second half and pad those totals.
So these two factors, while key points in figuring this game, may not be the huge reasons why the Bills don’t win. They may even be the reason why the Bills DO win.
Buffalo’s Cassondra Conrad will appear for online voting November 1- November 30 in a global singing contest for McDonald’s Crew and Managers.