Bills have 'productive' talks with WR Johnson

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - The Buffalo Bills made progress in their bid to re-sign Stevie Johnson before the receiver is eligible to become a free agent next month.

Johnson's agent, C.J. LaBoy, said he was "very optimistic" after describing talks as being "productive," in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Friday. LaBoy wouldn't go into further details in assessing the meeting he had with Bills officials at the NFL combine in Indianapolis earlier in the day.

Bills general manager Buddy Nix told a Toronto radio station that the two sides met and that talks will continue.

"We're still talking. It's an ongoing thing," Nix told TSN Radio. "As long as there's communication, you've got a chance."

The meeting took place days after a person familiar with discussions told the AP that the two sides were "far apart" after exchanging offers last week.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because talks are ongoing. The person also added that Johnson did not expect the Bills to use their franchise player designation to retain his rights.

On Friday, Nix told both The Buffalo News and Buffalo's WGR-550 radio that he had not ruled out using the franchise tag.

In conducting a chat with fans on the team's website, assistant GM Doug Whaley noted there was a chance of the Bills using their tag on Johnson.

"There's a possibility that may happen," Whaley wrote, responding to a question about Johnson. "But right now we're focused on getting a long term deal accomplished because the tag would be a short term fix, and we're trying to build this team to be competitive over the long haul."

Johnson has led the Bills in receiving in each of the past two seasons, and became the first Buffalo player to break 1,000 yards in consecutive years. He had 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

The only question mark regarding Johnson is his over-the-top touchdown celebrations. He was benched for the final three quarters of the Bills' finale at New England after being flagged a second time in six games - and third time in two years - for an excessive touchdown celebration.

Losing Johnson would be a big blow to a Bills offense that lacks experienced depth at the receiver position, and for an offense that made strides under quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick last season. Despite a 6-10 finish, in which Buffalo lost eight of its final nine games, the Bills finished 14th in the NFL in yards gained - the team's best showing since finishing 11th in 2002.

Whaley also noted that the team is having discussions in a bid to re-sign tight end Scott Chandler, who is also eligible to become a free agent. Chandler had 389 yards receiving and finished second on the team with six touchdowns.

"We're in contact with his representatives, and we're trying very hard to get him back in the fold," Whaley wrote.