When Sean McDermott, the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, told reporters that it’s “next man up” for the team’s wide receivers in the wake of Anquan Boldin’s retirement and injuries to Jordan Matthews and Rod Streater, an old friend said he was ready to step up for the team.
Stevie Johnson, who last played for the Bills in the 2013 season, saw the press conference and felt compelled to tweet his interest in filling the void in Buffalo.
That’s an emoji of a raised hand, in case you aren’t fluent. The link Johnson quoted was a quick video of McDermott’s “next man up” comments. Together, they indicate Johnson is volunteering to be that man.
While Johnson may have been kidding, it’s also possible that he was entirely serious. The former seventh-round draft pick out of Kentucky first suited up for the Bills in 2008. He had 12 catches on 17 targets during his first two professional seasons before breaking out in 2010 with 82 grabs for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those 10 touchdowns tie him for second on the franchise’s single-season record list, and that season is the last time a Buffalo receiver had double-digit receiving touchdowns in a year (and only the sixth time ever in franchise history). Johnson is also the only Buffalo receiver to record 1,000-yard receiving seasons in back-to-back years, accomplishing the feat every year from 2010-2012.
In 2013, Johnson’s play declined sharply, as Ryan Fitzpatrick was released and rookie EJ Manuel struggled for much of the season (as did fellow rookie Jeff Tuel and veteran Thaddeus Lewis). Johnson’s mother passed away late in the season, and he was excused from the team for its final two games. He was traded to San Francisco during the 2014 NFL Draft for a 2015 4th-round pick (which was subsequently traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for Bryce Brown and the choice the netted Buffalo Seantrel Henderson in round 7), and he finished his career on the west coast, playing for the San Francisco 49ers in 2014 and the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers in 2015. After suffering an injury during training camp in 2016, the Chargers waived him.
While it’s nice to know that number 13 still has a drive to play and an admiration for #billsmafia, it’s unlikely that he could provide much help to Buffalo’s receiving corps. Outside of those three years in Chan Gailey’s spread offense, Johnson was mostly a non-factor during his NFL career. We’ll see if Brandon Beane and company acknowledge Johnson’s raised hand, or if they let it slide into virtual oblivion.
This article has been edited to note that Johnson was traded by the Bills, not released, in 2014. Thanks to Watkintotheendzone for pointing out the error!