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Bills have budget target on Stevie

INDIANAPOLIS -- It seems obvious the Buffalo Bills have a clear salary figure for receiver Stevie Johnson that they intend to hold firm on.

Bills General Manager Buddy Nix today reiterated his desire to retain Johnson. But he also said he does not expect a major breakthrough when the team meets with Johnson's agent later today.

“We’ll try to get the gap a little closer and keep working on it," Nix said. "I doubt very seriously we’ll see a change much after today’s meeting. ... We’re meeting with his agent but we’re doing the same thing with 20 some agents, as we always do."

Just how close the Bills will be willing to get to an $8 million a year figure for Johnson remains to be seen. That's the figure that would equal last year's "roughly comparable" free-agent signee, Sidney Rice of Seattle. Obviously the BIlls have not been willing to get there so far.

Nix also talked about longer-term negotiating implications. Among the Bills entering the final years of their contracts are guard Andy Levitre and safety Jairus Byrd. Center Eric Wood is up in 2013.

"The thing the fans don’t understand is I’ve got to decide what’s it going to do to us if we pay this much. If we overpay this guy, does it mean now we can’t sign Eric Wood, or whoever," Nix said. "That’s the hard part."

Nix would not rule out using the franchise tag. "It’s always an option. It’s not something you’d like to do but it is an option," he said.

However, a franchise tag, which would guarantee Johnson about $9.5 million in 2012, still is not expected to be used by the Bills.

---Mark Gaughan



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