Johnson says he wants to stay with Bills, but future in jeopardy

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Stevie Johnson could be down to playing his final games with the Buffalo Bills after contract talks broke off a few weeks ago.

The team's top receiver -- and most colorful player -- would prefer to re-sign with the Bills. However, Johnson is wondering where his future rests after the team rejected his last offer.

Based on how negotiations ended, Johnson said the ball essentially is in the Bills' court because there's no reason for him to re-open talks before he's eligible to become a free agent this offseason.

"We tried to do our negotiating and it was turned down," Johnson said Wednesday. "I want to just ride it out and see what happens."

Johnson wouldn't divulge what his asking price was, but he told The Associated Press it averaged out to less than $9 million per season -- a mid-range salary for one of the NFL's top-tier receivers.

It's unclear how far apart the two sides are, but Johnson isn't willing to consider the Bills' last offer even if it means leaving a team and in a town he's grown to love.

"It is what it is. We know it's a business," he said. "We'll see what they do. They've got a plan upstairs to maybe make some moves and bring me back later. We'll just see how that plays out."

In saying, "I want to be here, period," Johnson suggested there's a possibility the Bills could use their franchise tag to retain his rights for at least one more season. Though it's a possibility, it's an unlikely option, given that the tag -- based on an average of the top-paid players at his position -- would commit the Bills to paying Johnson in the range of a $10 million salary next season unless the two sides worked out a new deal.

The Bills have a policy against commenting on the status of contract talks.

Johnson leads Buffalo (5-8) with 63 catches for 790 yards this season and is tied for the team lead with six touchdowns. He has produced this year despite playing on a banged-up offense that's missing numerous regulars, and despite the team lacking a proven No. 2 threat to draw away coverage.

However things turn out, Johnson intends to remain patient, saying he can afford to wait.

"I've been broke all my life, so I ain't tripping," Johnson said.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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