CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 02: Stevie Johnson #13 of the Buffalo Bills runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
News coming out of Buffalo on Wednesday is that the Bills are not going to use the franchise tag on WR Stevie Johnson. There has been speculation about the Bills using the tag on Johnson since the end of the season because of the Bills lackluster offensive effort in the latter half of the season where, after going 5-2 to start the season, they lost 8 of their last 9. After Fred Jackson suffered a leg injury in week 11, the Bills offense became anemic and Ryan Fitzpatrick was only able to surpass a QB rating of over 90 percent once in the last 9 games (his second highest rating was 88 percent). When you take into account the massive underachievement of Fitzpatrick and the aging Fred Jackson (31 years old), Stevie Johnson becomes an indispensable part of your offense personnel that you cannot let get away from you.
For Bengals fans everywhere, in unison, we can say thank you to the Buffalo Bills for letting a fantastic, young wide receiver go into free agency and giving the Bengals the possibility to have a dangerous no. 2 wide receiver to line up across the field from Adriel Jeremiah Green. The Bengals need to pick up a free agent wide receiver and out of the names that have been tossed out there (Lance Moore, Marques Colston, Mario Manningham, etc), Johnson's name is the most pleasing because of his big-play ability and dangerous speed and quickness off of the line of scrimmage. Not to mention, Johnson plays very well in Paul Brown Stadium (195 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2 games).
Johnson has led the Bills in receiving each of the last two years by piling up over 1,000 yards each year along with catching ten touchdowns in 2010 and seven in 2011. Johnson became the first Bills wide receiver to have back-to-back years with over 1,000 yards receiving, which is a feat that even Hall of Fame candidate Andre Reed was never able to achieve. Johnson is an amazing talent and imagine what he could do in an offense where he is not being double-teamed every play. On second thought, imagine what A.J. Green could do in an offense where he is not double-teamed on every play because the secondary has to worry about Green and Johnson. That's is a scary thought.
For Bengals fans, the news that Johnson could hit the market and possibly end up in Cincinnati is welcomed. Cincy Jungle's own Anthony Cozenza has a great article on how Johnson would be a great fit in Cincinnati. One point that Cosenza makes regarding Johnson in Cincinnati is that he may be looking for no. 1 wide receiver money. This is not a "make or break" issue for the Bengals because they definitely have enough money to spend on Johnson, but Johnson's ego may need to be humbled if he comes to Cincinnati because, as Cosenza states, "[Johnson] would definitely play second fiddle to [A.J.] Green in Cincinnati."
Johnson would be a great addition to an emerging west coast offense, under the helm of Jay Gruden, where there will be plenty of balls to spread around to Johnson, Green, Shipley, Hawkins, and Gresham. If the reports are true and Johnson becomes a free agent, there are very few fans who would be upset if he were in Bengal stripes next season. Not to mention, even though he has torched the Bengals over the past two years, Johnson has a lot of fans in the Tri-State area because of his prolific college career at the University of Kentucky.