Dominating offensive tackles are not a dime a dozen.
You won’t find them at the flea market – sorry Mike Gandy and Kris Farris.
You won’t always find them with a top five pick – sorry Mike Williams.
And you can’t always build from within with draft picks – sorry Marcus Spriggs and Jamie Nails.
If any team knows how rare it is to find a linchpin at left tackle it’s the Buffalo Bills. Arguably no team has struggled at that position more than Buffalo over the past decade, and it’s kept them out of the playoffs for eight years.
But now the Bills have one in Jason Peters. They have a top five left tackle that’s only 26 years old. You’re more likely to see a UFO graze a field in Western New York than one of these rare creatures. And for some reason, the front office is reluctant to pay Peters his market value? Insanity.
Considering their astronomical failings at the position since Jim Kelly retired, the Bills should be handing Peters a blank check. Such players are an endangered species in the NFL. Peters is on the verge of becoming one of the team’s best offensive lineman ever, yet the Bills haven’t granted Peters’ request for a raise on his current five-year, $15 million deal.
Russ Brandon sure has picked the worst possible player to play hardball with.
“It’s difficult to have discussions with someone that’s not here and has not elected to participate in what we're trying to do,” Brandon said. “Jason’s a big part of what we’re trying to do. But if he’s not here, then we’ll work around it and move on.”
What a solid first step for Trent Edwards’ development. That’s exactly what Edwards needs – musical chairs on the offensive line and defensive ends constantly in his grill.
Buffalo would probably shift Langston Walker to left tackle if Peters isn’t around. Walker surprisingly justified his $25 million deal at right tackle last season. But that was against teams’ second-rate pass rushers. On the left side against the Langston Walker the Oakland Raiders know may surface. After all, Walker was on the 2006 Oakland team that surrendered a NFL-worst 72 sacks in ’06. Of course that club went 2-14 and suffered through three battered quarterbacks.
Edwards already faces a big challenge with a lackluster receiving corps to throw to. A questionable left tackle is strike two on his way toward Rob Johnson-sized fame.
Derrick Dockery and Walker both helped glue Buffalo’s line together last season. The front five allowed only 26 sacks last season – Buffalo’s lowest figure since 1981. They also anchored the emergence of Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 1,115 yards as a rookie. But Peters’ is the bell-cow stalwart that could make the unit elite.
The former tight end in college has stayed mute through the entire offseason. Peters will be fined $15,000 for each practice he misses. Brandon insists the team will only negotiate with its best player if he shows up to camp.
But that shouldn’t matter. Pay the man and move on.
If Buffalo had enough dough to re-up the contracts of defensive tackle Kyle Williams and offensive guard Brad Butler, it sure as heck can extend Peters’ contract. It was a smart forward-thinking move to lock up these two core players, but not nearly as important as giving Peters what he deserves.
Peters’ base salary for this season of $3.25 million is an insult. Brandon noted that the Bills’ gave him this five-year, $15 million deal in 2006. The compensation-for-good play effect already played out, he attests. But a lot has changed since then. Buffalo rewarded Peters with this deal right after he made the switch from tight end to lineman. But then he made another switch – to left tackle. Now he’s the team’s reliable starter at arguably the most thankless, difficult job in sports.
Left tackle. Or more appropriately, Trent Edwards’ blind side.
Week-in and week-out, Peters went toe-to-toe with oppositions’ best speed rushers. Miami’s Jason Taylor – the standard at his position – only had one sack in two games against Peters. Behind closed doors, Peters and his agents may be demanding the team make him the highest paid lineman in the league – or close to it.
In an era where players are grossly overpaid at every position (you can thank the rising salary cap for that), Buffalo’s best player is underpaid. He’s the third-highest paid offensive lineman on his own team, yet may be the best left tackle in the entire conference.
Forget the “holdout and get rewarded” message GMs always fear. What kind of message does this send? The best players deserve the most money. Period.
The Bills only need to look in their division to see Peters' worth. In the endless pursuit to catch the New England Patriots, the New York Jets shelled out $40 million over five years for offensive guard Alan Faneca. The Jets know that closing the gap on the Patriots begins in the trenches.
Now it's Buffalo's turn.
Brandon and co. must pay Jason Peters now before a promising offense is forced to take a major detour...before the season has even begun.