Top priority for Bills is re-signing receiver Johnson

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson is unable to make a catch defended by New England...

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson is unable to make a catch defended by New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty during the first quarter of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts January 1, 2012. (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

Bill Lankhof, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:37 PM ET

Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix told a news conference Monday that re-signing free agent receiver Steve Johnson will be his priority this off-season.

But, not far behind, will be finding someone who can bolster a pass rush that proved to be mostly nonexistent this season.

Nix said the club has made several proposals and that discussions are on-going with Johnson who has been the club’s leading receiver the past two seasons. He had 1,004 yards this season on 76 catches with seven touchdowns.

“We do want him back.” said Nix. “Hopefully if he wanted to hit the market he’d say that. I take him at his word. He says he wants to be here ... I think we’ll get a deal done.”

Nix believes the Bills are just “three or four” players from being competitive again after a 6-10 season.

Central to that is improving the pass rush after Buffalo finished tied for 30th in the NFL with 29 sacks.

“Everything would look better if we had some pressure on the passer,” he said. “Defensively, I would say the priority would have to be pass rushers, defensive ends, one, maybe two. You can never have enough corners ... and at some point we need another linebacker.”

Nix said he’s also had discussions with Fred Jackson about extending his contract which runs through 2012. Jackson broke a bone in his leg in November, missing the remainder of the season. When he was injured he led the league in rushing he led the NFL in rushing, and his 1,376 yards from scrimmage through 10 games ranked behind only Chicago’s Matt Forte.

“We want to extend Fred. I’d like for Fred to finish his career as a Bill. We’re gonna try and get something done,” said Nix. Two things play against Jackson. First, he’s signed through next season for a ridiculously low $1.83 million so the Bills have no urgency to extend his deal. Second, C.J. Spiller showed signs at the end of the season that he could yet develop into a No. 1 running back.

“Does it matter if we do it now or next week or a month from now? As long as we get it done before the season starts it’s all the same to me,” said Nix. “We do want Fred back and we do intend to work out a deal with him. I told Fred that.”


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