The Buffalo Bills are now embarking on the fifth full day of what is being termed the "Bryant Johnson Watch". After visiting with the Bills on Monday, free agent wide receiver Bryant Johnson has not yet visited with another franchise, nor has he come to terms with any team interested. What's making matters worse is the fact that Johnson's indecision has caused the Bills to miss out on one other potential acquisition (TE Ben Troupe) and may cause them to miss out on another (S Marlon McCree).
The Latest on Johnson
My latest information has it that the Bills remain interested in signing Johnson, and by and large the feeling is mutual from Johnson's camp. As we've mentioned here numerous times, the current wide receiver market has been thrown way off balance by the ridiculous contracts handed out to Vikings WR Bernard Berrian and especially Raiders WR Javon Walker. There has been some confirmation of the fact that the Bills are, indeed, working on a deal heavily laden with incentives for Johnson. Those negotiations, based on the aforementioned wideout market, are almost assuredly not going well.
My latest information also indicates that the Bills aren't willing to overspend for Johnson not because they're of the belief he's unworthy of such money, but because they're saving dollars for a Lee Evans extension. Evans' contract remains the number one long-term priority on Buffalo's "to do" list; an incentive-laden Johnson deal would save the Bills enough money to extend Evans, and would also allow Johnson to earn the type of money he's seeking. Rumors that the Bills are interested in trading Evans are blatantly false.
I've also heard rumblings that there are two other teams interested in Johnson's services. Most are aware that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have expressed interest in Johnson, and they certainly have the cap room to make a serious offer - probably one more serious than Buffalo's. It's unclear who the other team is, though it could very well be the Arizona Cardinals, who want Johnson back and are reportedly shopping Larry Fitzgerald on the trade market.
Johnson currently has more than one offer on the table. Look for something official to be decided from the Johnson camp over the weekend, but as early as today.
Johnson is clearly still Buffalo's top free agent priority, and his indecision as he looks for the right deal is having a negative impact on Buffalo's ability to sign other free agents, specifically S Marlon McCree. The Bills are extremely interested in McCree's services, but their situation with Johnson has them believing that McCree won't make it out of Denver, according to my latest information. As McCree mentioned during his visit with Buffalo (he met with Broncos officials Thursday), he's expected to have a decision made by today.
Troupe is officially off the market, having signed with the Buccaneers, and it seems very likely at this point that the situation with Johnson was at least partially responsible for that decision as well - if Johnson hadn't been top priority, the Bills may not have been willing to let Troupe and McCree leave town on other visits. The team may be forced to wait on TE Courtney Anderson and FB Corey McIntyre as well until something is settled with Johnson.
The End is Near
In essence, the Bills are stuck. They're waiting on a decision from a player that they clearly believe would help them immensely on offense, but there are fears that Johnson's agent will simply take the best monetary offer. If McCree makes a decision before Johnson, it will most likely be Denver. Everything, at this point in time, is contingent on Johnson's decision.
My prediction: McCree will sign with Denver today. Johnson will take the best monetary offer, likely from Tampa Bay, over the weekend. The Bills will then turn their attention to Anderson and McIntyre, and really start researching cornerbacks and wide receivers for their first round pick. Stay tuned - the end is nearing with this week's free agency madness; it may not be a pretty ending for the Bills.