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Source: Bills, Johnson exchange proposals

---The Buffalo Bills and representatives for Stevie Johnson have exchanged proposals and are expected to meet at next week’s NFL Combine, a league source told The Buffalo News.

The Bills submitted a proposal over a week ago and Johnson’s agent, C.J. LaBoy, countered the team’s offer on Monday, according to the source. There have been no further talks although the two sides are scheduled to meet next week in Indianapolis.

The 25-year-old Johnson started all 16 games in 2011 and finished with 76 receptions for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Report: Manning had a fourth surgery

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---A day after Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay made it clear that the decision whether to play for the team rests with Peyton Manning, pictured above, and his willingness to take a pay cut, Sports Illustrated reports new details about the quarterback’s physical condition. According to SI, Manning underwent four, not three, neck procedures over a 19-month span, has bone spurs just above the spot of fusion surgery in September, and may require further fusion.

---Here's John McClain's take on Mario Williams, who McClain says several teams may be in a position to offer the free agent defensive end $50 million as a signing bonus. Think Ralph Wilson would really like to hand over that kind of cash?

---Detroit is on the rise and Lions president Tom Lewand says his team will be smart with its money this off-season.

--- Sporting News ranks its top 50 draft prospects. Penn State DT Devon Still ranks No. 10.

---Retired NFL players are still hoping for improved benefits. Bills Hall of Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure told the AP that "I'm going to fight `em to the end."

---Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times reports preliminary contract talks between the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco are expected to launch next week at the NFL scouting combine, according to Flacco's agent, Joe Linta.

---Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been in Los Angeles working on his throwing mechanics with new UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone according to Peter Yoon of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Titans-Bills blacked out

---The Bills announced that Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans at Ralph Wilson Stadium did not sell out by the league mandated deadline and will be blacked out on local television.

Tickets are available at buffalobills.com, Ticketmaster outlets, the Ralph Wilson Stadium ticket office, or by calling 1-877-BB-TICKS (228-4257).  Club seats and other premium seating opportunities are also available.

Former Bills kicker Steve Christie will be Sunday’s “Leader of the Charge” to wave the Bills team onto the field for pregame introductions.  Pregame activities also include the recognition of students and teachers from Buffalo area schools that participated in the Bills and NFL Play 60 program this season.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Bills Replay video chat with Jay Skurski and Milt Northrop

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News Sports Reporters Jay Skurski and Milt Northrop answered your questions submitted in the chat console below about the Bills and NFL.

Nix quotes on Maybin

Nix
On the release of Maybin:

It’s all about us as a team and trying to get better. I’ll say this every time, but it’s also about him.  We could have used him and gone on through the preseason and that kind of thing, and he would have had very little chance of being picked up.  This gives him a chance to maybe get on another team, fit in better and things work out good for him.

On if Maybin’s size and strength was an issue:

I saw where somebody said he didn’t fit the scheme. I don’t know what scheme he fits at that size, unless you’re a strong safety.  He says his metabolism and maybe that’s what it is.  He couldn’t hold weight.  He was 250 at the combine when we saw him and then he was 228 this fall.  He goes up and down some but not very high.

On how difficult it is giving up on a former first-round pick:

You make way more out of those picks than we do and than I do.  I know the money is a big deal.  I don’t think that will be as big now and as much pressure will be on the player.  I think what happens when you miss on a pick that high, a first or second or even third round, it sets you back because you keep trying to fill that void.  That’s the reason we took a little longer.  We needed him and wanted him to come through and wanted to make sure we gave him every opportunity.  He did everything he could do.  He practiced hard, he hustled and he did everything we asked of him.  It just didn’t work out.

On letting young guys get a chance at a roster spot:

And that’s what happens.  We said that and I’ve said that from day one.  A guy that has a chance to develop and be what you’re looking for that doesn’t get enough reps to do it, and that’s what happened.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Bills draft busts? Maybin near the top

Maybin ---In terms of Bills draft busts, Aaron Maybin may be the biggest.

Left tackle Mike Williams was the No. 4 pick overall in 2002 and was a major bust, but he started 47 games and played 51 for the Bills. Defensive end Erik Flowers, 26th overall in 2000, played 31 games over two seasons and made four sacks which were four more than Maybin.

Defensive end Walt Patulski, No. 1 overall in 1973, appeared in 56 games and tight end Tony Hunter, No. 12 overall in ’83, played two seasons and caught 69 passes. Wide receiver Perry Tuttle, the 19th pick in 1982, caught 24 passes in two years, and while 1980 No. 1 overall pick Tom Cousineau never played for the Bills – electing to play in the CFL – the linebacker wound up making 59 starts in the NFL.

Maybin has just one.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic

Nix beefs up scouting dept.

Now we know why Tom Modrak was fired. Letting him go allowed General Manager Buddy Nix to bring in his own people at two key positions. On Wednesday, Nix named Tom Gibbons as director of pro personnel and named Chuck Cook director of college scouting.

Unlike Modrak, Gibbons and Cook have a history with Nix. Gibbons worked with Nix in the Bills' scouting department in the 1990s. Gibbons left Buffalo in 2004 to reunite with Nix in San Diego, where Nix served as head of college scouting for Chargers GM John Butler, who held the same position for the BIlls and gave Gibbons his first scouting assignment in Buffalo.

Cook's father, long-time New Orleans Saints scout Hamp Cook, and Nix have been close friends since they coached together at Southern Mississippi in 1972. Nix even tried to recruit Chuck Cooper for Auburn. Cooper went on to star at Southern Miss, where he and his father are in the school's Hall of Fame.

Having a connection with the people on staff was important to Nix, who never worked with Modrak prior to returning to the Bills (at Modrak's request) three years ago.

"You need to know what you’ve got," Nix said. "Sometimes if you hire somebody off of somebody else’s word or you hire somebody off of reputation, you find out too late. Maybe I’m old school, but I like knowing them and I know these guys.''

Gibbons and Cook will answer directly to assistant GM Doug Whaley, who was also given the title of director of player personnel last week.

Nix said the reorganization of his personnel staff has concluded. West coast scout Rashaan Curry and college scouting administrator Michael LaFlamme will not return, but the rest of the scouting department will remain in place.

---Allen Wilson   

Join News football reporters for third day of draft chat

Did Andre Reed reveal 2nd Rd pick?

There is so much information (and misinformation) leading up to the draft, it's hard to separate fact from fiction. That's why a lot of Bills fans wonder if there is any truth to what former Bills wide receiver Andre Reed wrote on his Twitter account on Thursday.

Reed, who will announce the team's second-round pick in New York City next week, suggested that the Bills would use that pick on Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder.

"@cponder7 Lookin forward to calling your name Draft Day!!!!!!!!!Bills brash like ur style" Reed said.

Interestingly, the tweet was removed quickly. But you know how Twitter works. Once something is put out there, however brief, someone is going to see it and run with it.

Don't dismiss Reed's tweet entirely. The Bills spent more time with Ponder this offseason than any other quarterback, beginning at the Senior Bowl when he played for the coaching staff. Ponder also met with the Bills at the NFL Scouting Combine and they brought him to Buffalo for another pre-draft visit. Also, Bills head coach Chan Gailey and Ponder go back to Ponder's high school days when Gailey tried to recruit him while coaching at Georgia Tech.
 
The most likely scenario still has the Bills taking a quarterback with the third overall pick, assuming Auburn's Cam Newton is available. If he's gone, the Bills might use their first pick on a defensive player. That means they could target quarterback in Round Two or use that 34th selection to trade into the back end of the first round, especially if there is a run on quarterbacks as some people suspect.

Since the Bills like Ponder, it's not that far-fetched they would pull the trigger if they have a shot at him late in the first round or early in the second.

---Allen Wilson

Modrak: "We got to nail picks."

Poor drafting has been the primary reason for the Bills' decade-long run of mediocrity. Tom Modrak, the vice president of college scouting, admits the team has had some misses during his tenure.

With the third overall pick and four picks in the top 100, General Manager Buddy Nix said "You really should get a lot better this year.'' That means the Bills can't whiff on these selections.

“It obviously is extremely important,’’ Modrak said during Tuesday's pre-draft news conference. “Especially where we’re picking, we’ve got to hit it on the nose. There’s no way around it. We got to get it done and we’ve got to hit those picks – hard.

 “We have certainly had our misses at the top. We’ve done pretty well in the middle and at the end. On the glamour-kind of picks, we’ve missed on them. It’s regrettable, but we’ve tried to make up for it in other areas. Will this draft, you’re going to try to solve some of those problems. I don’t think we can solve all of them, but we’re going try to solve some of them. If we can do that and keep making progress, that’s a good thing.’’

---Allen Wilson

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