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Source says WR Johnson doesn't expect Bills to use tag

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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A person familiar with the contract talks between the Buffalo Bills and Stevie Johnson said the two sides remain "far apart," and added that the receiver doesn't expect the team to use its franchise tag to retain him.

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The person spoke with The Associated Press on Sunday on the condition of anonymity because talks are ongoing.

Johnson and the Bills exchanged offers last week, and the two sides are scheduled to meet at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week.

Johnson has led the Bills in receiving in each of the past two seasons and is eligible to become a free agent next month. Starting Monday, NFL teams can begin using a franchise tag to retain the rights to their prospective free agents. 

NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported Johnson is a prime candidate for the tag if a deal isn't worked out by the March 5 deadline.

Applying the tag would not prevent the Bills from continuing to negotiate a long-term contract with Johnson. However, if an agreement is not reached, it would put the team in a position to have to pay the receiver about $9.4 million next season.

Such a contract would handcuff the Bills' payroll, and limit their ability to sign other free agents to improve a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 12 seasons -- the NFL's longest active drought.

The Bills haven't used the tag since 2006, when they designated cornerback Nate Clements their franchise player. Clements signed the $7.2 million offer, under the condition the team would allow him to become a free agent the following season.

Johnson has not discussed how much he's seeking.

The Bills have a policy against discussing contract talks. General manager Buddy Nix did say last month that he would like to re-sign Johnson.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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