National Football League teams were allowed to use franchise tags on their prospective free agents on Monday, but the Buffalo Bills aren't expected to extend that offer to wide receiver Stevie Johnson.
A league source told The Buffalo News that Johnson isn't expecting to receive the franchise tag from the Bills and despite swapping contract proposals recently the two sides are far apart on negotiations. The franchise tag option hasn't been discussed during negotiations with Johnson, the source told The News.
Johnson's agent, C.J. LaBoy, was unavailable for comment.
The Associated Press first reported the development citing a person familiar with discussions. Johnson's representatives countered a Bills offer last week and the two sides agreed to meet at this week's NFL Combine in Indianapolis. The Bills haven't applied the franchise tag since 2006, when they designated cornerback Nate Clements, the team's first-round pick and 21st pick overall in 2001. Clements signed the $7.2 million offer, under the condition the team would allow him to become a free agent the following season. Clements exercised that option and became the highest paid defensive player in NFL history after signing an eight-year, $80 million with $22 million guaranteed deal with the San Francisco 49ers.
NFL teams can apply the franchise tag to players up until 4 p.m. March 5. Previously, the franchise-tag number was generated by averaging the top-five salaries at a position to determine a salary for that position.
This year, the franchise tag value will be a percentage of the overall salary cap figure for the previous five years. The highest franchise tag value is $16.1 million for quarterbacks while the lowest is $5.4 million for tight ends. If the Bills elect to tag Johnson, his one-year salary for 2012 would be $9.4 million.
Johnson has become a valuable commodity the last two seasons by leading the Bills in receiving.
In 2010, he had 82 receptions for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns and made former No. 1 receiver Lee Evans expendable. Evans, the team's first-round pick in 2004, was traded for a fourth-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens last summer.
Johnson finished with 76 catches for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns in becoming the Bills' first receiver to have consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Hall of Fame candidate Andre Reed finished with four 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his 16-year career and had just three more touchdowns than Johnson in the first four seasons of his career in Buffalo.
Also, the Kansas City Chiefs agreed to terms on a $19.6 million, three-year deal with cornerback Stanford Routt on Monday. The deal includes a $4 million signing bonus and $6 million the first season, according to a source.
Routt, who visited the Bills' Orchard Park facility last week, is still owed $5 million next month from the Raiders, who released him after the first year of a $54.4 million, five-year deal. The $11 million Routt will make in 2012 puts him among the three highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL.
Routt spent several days in Kansas City before choosing the Chiefs over the Bills, Cincinnati, Houston, New Orleans, Minnesota and Tennessee.