The Buffalo Bills will have to pay out roughly $18 million a year if they want to re-sign both Stevie Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
It sounds like a lot of money. But in the NFL world, where teams are living off the golden goose of television revenue, it's not crazy money. In fact, many teams are committing that much money -- and more -- to the receiver and quarterback positions.
Here's how the pay rankings look and how the parameters might shake out as the Bills work on deals for their passing combination.
Johnson replaced Lee Evans as the Bills' No. 1 receiver. Evans signed an extension in 2008 that paid him $8 million a year over five years.
What other players are relevant in relation to Johnson? Dallas signed Miles Austin to a deal that paid $8.1 million a year. It was for $57.2 million over seven years. The Cowboys redid it for cap purposes this August, and now he averages $9 million a year. Like Johnson, Austin entered the league with few credentials. At the time he signed the deal, Austin had played four years and put up one big season, catching 81 passes for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns. Johnson had 82 catches for 1,073 yards and 10 TDs last year. Seattle's Sidney Rice signed a free-agent deal worth $8.2 million a year in July. He also played four years and had one big year prior to his windfall. (Rice had 83 catches for 1,312 yards in 2009.) Rice looks pretty comparable to Johnson from this perspective.
There are 14 receivers making $7.65 million a year or more. Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald makes $16 million a year. Detroit's Calvin Johnson ($12 million) is next, followed by San Diego's Vincent Jackson (playing for the franchise tag of $11.4 million) and Miami's Brandon Marshall ($11.2 million).
However the negotiations play out, the Bills need Stevie Johnson.
At quarterback, there are 16 players averaging $10 million a year. OK, that's a tiny exaggeration.
The 16th highest paid quarterback is Kansas City's Matt Cassel, and his contract averages $9.669 million a year. Would any Bills fan trade Fitzpatrick for Cassel? We think not.
No. 14 is the Jets' Mark Sanchez, who's playing on a rookie contract that pays him $10 million a year. No. 15 is New Orleans' Drew Brees ($10 million), who is expected to sign a giant new deal soon. No. 17 is Denver's Kyle Orton, at $8.8 million a year on a contract signed about a year ago.
The top 10 on the QB salary list, not counting Brees, looks like this:
1. Tom Brady, Pats, $18 million.
2. Peyton Manning, Colts, $18 M.
3. Eli Manning, Giants, $16.2 M.
4. Michael Vick, Eagles, $16 M.
5. Philip Rivers, Chargers, $15.3 M.
6. Jay Cutler, Bears, $14.6 M.
7. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, $14.6 M.
8. Sam Bradford, Rams, $13 M.
9. Aaron Rodgers, Packers, $12.7 M.
10. Kevin Kolb, Cards, $12.4 M.
Tampa-St. Petersburg is the 14th largest television market in the United States. Yet the Bucs can't sell tickets. Tampa Bay's NFC South showdown against Atlanta today will be the team's 10th straight home game blacked out. The Bucs were the only team to have all eight home games blacked out last season. Two weeks ago, their home opener against one of the hot young teams in the NFL, Detroit, attracted a crowd of just 51,275. Capacity is about 65,000.
Bills great Darryl Talley was honored Saturday at his alma mater (West Virginia) for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Another ex-Bill got the same treatment. Bill "Earthquake" Enyart also went into the college hall, and was honored at Oregon State. The Bills took O.J. Simpson first and Enyart second in the '69 draft. Enyart, 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, was the 27th overall pick and might have formed a "thunder and lightning" combination with the Juice under coach John Rauch. Except he didn't. He gained 387 yards and caught 54 passes in two years. But then Rauch was fired, and Enyart was out of the NFL by '72. In college, Enyart was a devastating runner and was part of the Beavers' "giant-killers" team that in 1967 upset No. 2 Purdue, No. 1 USC and No. 2 UCLA in a 21-day span.
Who should the Bills have taken with the 27th pick? They passed on a great middle linebacker, Bill Bergey, and a Hall-of-Fame outside linebacker, Ted Hendricks, both taken among the next six picks. Bergey is from South Dayton, N.Y.
Aiming to be gray
The only two teams to beat New England last year -- the Jets and Cleveland -- did a good job of disguising their pre-snap defensive looks against Brady. Look to see how much the Bills' safeties are on the move after the snap today.
"Tom is one of the smartest if not the smartest quarterback in the game," said Bills strong safety George Wilson. "So we know we have to play them straight up. We can't tip our hand before every snap. We have to try to make it as gray as possible, and try as best we can to manipulate him as he's trying to manipulate us. At the end of the day, we have to line up and stop those guys. Win on first and second down and get off the field on third down."
Up in the air
It will be interesting to see which way Bears offensive guru Mike Martz decides to attack Green Bay in the NFC North showdown today at Soldier Field.
The Bears no doubt want to control the ball and keep Pack QB Aaron Rodgers off the field. And Chicago's offensive line is shaky at best. But Green Bay's pass defense is hurting. Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins is out for the year with a neck injury. Cornerback Tramon Williams is hindered by a sore shoulder and star pass rusher Clay Matthews is playing with a sore quad, which is slowing him down. Green Bay's pass defense has been skewered the first two weeks by Brees and Cam Newton and ranks 32nd in the league.
Meanwhile, the passing game looks good for the Pack, too. The Bears' safeties probably will be backup Craig Steltz and Brandon Meriweather, whom they just picked up at the end of preseason off waivers from New England.
*The Pats haven't run yet this year on third-and-3 or more. Watch out for Danny Woodhead.
* Detroit's Matthew Stafford has thrown at least four TD passes three times in 15 career starts. Hall-of-Famer Fran Tarkenton is the only other QB to do that.
*Washington's Mike Shanahan has 162 career coaching wins. He moved past Bill Cowher and into 15th place on the all-time list last week.
*Ex-Bill Derrick Dockery, who is starting at guard for Dallas, is out several weeks with a fractured tibia and sprained knee.