ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that the Buffalo Bills have traded wide receiver Stevie Johnson to the San Francisco 49ers. In exchange, the Bills will receive a conditional 2015 fourth-round pick that can escalate to a third-rounder if Johnson meets some some not-yet-disclosed parameters.
Rumors that Johnson might be done in Buffalo have existed since immediately after the 2013 season; they became whispers when the Bills traded for former Tampa Bay wideout Mike Williams, then practically became shouts when, last evening, they traded up to the No. 4 overall pick to take Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
"Stevie was a great contributor during his career with our organization," said Bills GM Doug Whaley in a statement. "Today’s decision was not an easy one to make, especially involving a player like Stevie who leaves everything he has on the field and is an emotional leader in our locker room. All of the decisions we make are done so in the best interest of our team. We wish him the best of luck in San Francisco and throughout the rest of his NFL career. We also want to thank Stevie and his family for their commitment to the Buffalo Bills and the community over the last six years."
Johnson, 27, was in the third year of a five-year, $36.25 million contract that h signed prior to becoming an unrestricted free agency in 2012. San Francisco now assumes that contract. A 2008 seventh-round pick out of Kentucky, Johnson has started for the Bills for the last four years, and finishes his career in Buffalo with 301 receptions, 3,832 yards and 28 touchdowns.
The trade gives the Bills back a fourth-round pick next year; they flipped their own to Cleveland last night in the Watkins trade. (Again, that can also become a third-round pick.) That means, for now, that they will only be down a first-round pick this time a year from now. Johnson will head out to the Bay Area, where he hails from, to play alongside Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin and compete for a Super Bowl, while the Bills will move forward with a receiving corps featuring Watkins, Robert Woods, Williams and Marquise Goodwin.