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Bills could get another shot at Taylor Jags landed RB in Johnson trade

In 1998, the Buffalo Bills traded their first-round draft choice (ninth overall) to the Jacksonville Jaguars for quarterback Rob Johnson.

The Jaguars used the pick on running back Fred Taylor, whose career far exceeded Johnson's.

"I guess you could say as far as that pick was concerned, I got it somewhat better," Taylor joked Tuesday.

Eleven years later, the Bills may get to add Taylor to their roster. He made Buffalo the first stop on his free agent tour Tuesday. Also in town for a visit was wide receiver Kelley Washington.

Taylor, who was released by the Jaguars nine days ago, is looking to build on an impressive body of work that includes seven 1,000-yard seasons and 11,271 career rushing yards, 16th on the NFL's all-time list.

He earned his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2007 but followed with 556 yards in '08, his worst total since 2001. The Jaguars released him because he was scheduled to earn $6 million this season.

"We are in a recession and I am jobless, so I have to make the most of every opportunity and try to say the right stuff," Taylor said during a brief news conference. "The people that I have met have been terrific. At the end of the day, my number-one objective is to get somewhere and compete. Nothing is going to be given to me. I don't expect that."

The Taylor visit is a bit curious given the Bills' running back depth chart, which includes Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and Xavier Omon. But with Lynch facing a possible NFL suspension for his arrest on misdemeanor gun possession charges in California, the Bills may consider Taylor as an insurance policy.

It is unlikely Taylor would sign here unless the money was right and there were assurances of playing time. Pursuing him also raises the question of whether the Bills are looking at the possibility of trading Lynch, who was a Pro Bowl alternate in his second year.

The Bills guaranteed Jackson's return Tuesday by making a tender offer to the exclusive rights free agent. Thursday is the deadline for teams to tender exclusive rights free agents. Jackson, who is entering his fourth season, will earn a minimum of $460,000 in 2009.

At 33 years old, Taylor recognizes he is no longer capable of being the featured back and knows he'll be part of a rotation wherever he goes.

He has done it before. He was part of a running back-by-committee system at the University of the Florida and shared carries with James Stewart and Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville.

"I know how to play with other backs," Taylor said. "I've been doing it my entire career. [The Bills] have a talented core of backs, and I think myself being a veteran guy who's been around the block, seen some things, learned some things from other guys, I think I can be able to pass some of that knowledge along to some of the younger guys, like a Fred and like a Marshawn. I really admire their skills and their talent. I've been checking them out for some time. They're good."

Taylor's leadership skills would be an added bonus for the Bills. He said the Bills didn't mention they'd like him to be a mentor to Lynch given his off-field problems, but it's a role Taylor would embrace.

"Naturally in my character, that automatically comes out," Taylor said. "Not saying I'm looking to be a father figure to anyone or anything like that, but I have kids, I know how I want to raise them, I know what I've gone through throughout my career here in the NFL. So whatever I can do to try and help, I'll always speak to the guys through experience."

Taylor was scheduled to fly to New England late Tuesday afternoon for a meeting with the Patriots, who might provide a better situation because their top two runners, Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris, have durability issues.

But Taylor has a relationship with Bills head coach Dick Jauron, who was on the Jaguars' staff during Taylor's rookie year. Taylor said Bills defensive tackle Marcus Stroud has aggressively tried to recruit his former Jaguars teammate.

Ultimately, Taylor is looking for the best fit and a chance to win a championship before he retires.

"I do want a ring," said Taylor, who believes he has at least two more years left in him. "When you look at [the Bills], this is a team that started out great last year and hit a few small hurdles, but the possibilities are still there and that makes my decision a little bit easier when it's time to decide where I'm going to go. We'll see how it goes."

Washington was released by the Patriots last week. He was one of their top players on special teams, but after catching just one pass in two seasons in New England he is looking for an opportunity to have a larger role on offense.

His best season as a receiver was in 2004 when he had 31 catches for 378 yards and four touchdowns for the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted him in the third round in 2003. He turns 30 in August.

There doesn't appear to be much room on the Bills' receiver depth chart with Lee Evans, Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish, James Hardy, Steve Johnson and Justin Jenkins holding down spots. But the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Washington, who visited the New York Jets last Wednesday and has more trips scheduled this week, believes he can added a physical presence to the position.

"I'm just looking for a place where I can go contribute offensively, as well as on special teams," Washington said. "This is one of the places that has that opportunity."

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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