Bills still facing contract challenges with Fitzpatrick, Johnson

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Though the wagons were uncircled today for the Bills as they lost to the Bengals for the first time in 11 tries, they still have one of the hot young teams in the NFL.

And as those young players mature, they get closer to the end of their contracts.  And as they get closer to the end of their contracts, the Bills need to decide whether and to what extent they’ll be paid.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the process currently is focused on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Talks are ongoing, but the problem is that the Bills aren’t quite sure where Fitz fits (do you see what we did there?) in relation to other quarterbacks.  He’s not first tier (which equates to roughly $14 million to $18 million per year), but he could be moving to the top of the second tier (which is in the neighborhood of $8 million to $11 million).

The problem for the Bills is that, if they decide to let it ride, they’ll have to use the franchise tag on Fitzpatrick, which necessarily will pay him at the first tier, at least for 2012.

The other problem with letting it ride as to Fitzpatrick is that there’s only one franchise tag to be used.  And if they use it on Fitzpatrick, they won’t have it for receiver Stevie Johnson.

Per a separate source, talks broke down between the Bills Johnson before the start of the regular season.  Johnson’s general range is a tad south of Miles Austin.  The Bills are much farther south than that.

For now, there are no negotiation on a new deal for Johnson, who is in the final year of a four-year rookie deal.

Either way, the Bills need to break out the checkbook soon.  And they can’t claim they don’t have cap room.  As of a month ago, they Bills had $24.4 million remaining for the current year.