The San Francisco 49ers have five picks in the second day of the 2014 draft -- two second-rounders and three third-rounders -- but they started the process of improving their offense before they could even get back on the board in Day 2. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, San Francisco has traded a conditional fourth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for receiver Stevie Johnson.
It was expected, per multiple sources, that Buffalo would attempt to deal Johnson before or during the draft, and that process accelerated when the Bills moved up to the fourth overall pick in the first round to take Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. Johnson had seasons of over 1,000 yards every year from 2010 through '12, but dropped off in '13, catching just 52 passes for 597 yards and three touchdowns. He missed time with back, hamstring and groin injuries, and admitted that he hadn't worked out the previous offseason. He also missed time during the season to attend his mother's funeral.
“It's a part of being a professional, especially when you're getting up there in years,” Johnson told the Buffalo News in late April. “Things start to break down. You have to use all the things that you can. That's the training room, the weight room and all that. I'm looking forward to getting after it.”
At the team's season-ending press conference on Dec. 30, general manager Doug Whaley was terse when asked if Johnson would be wearing a Bills uniform in 2014.
"He’s under contract and we expect him to be here," Whaley said.
In addition to Watkins, the Bills have recent addition Mike Williams, formerly with the Buccaneers, whose off-field issues have bedeviled him at times. They took Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin in the 2013 draft, and the addition of Watkins -- especially as the Bills gave up their 2015 first-round pick to do so -- appeared to be the decisive gesture.
The 49ers are looking for any port in a storm, as their passing game generally suffers mightily whenever receiver Michael Crabtree is out with injuries. Johnson can play outside and in the slot, and if he keeps his head on straight, could be a major addition to an offense in need of targets.
Selected by Buffalo in the seventh round of the 2008 draft out of Kentucky, Johnson caught 301 passes for 3,832 yards and 28 touchdowns in his Bills career. He signed a five-year, $36.25 million contract extension in 2012, and he's due $3.65 million in base salary in 2014. The Bills have already paid a $1.75 million roster bonus that was due in March. In 2015, Johnson's base salary accelerates to $5.5 million with a $250,000 roster bonus, so it's a pivotal year for both sides.
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