I can't remember the last time I heard the names of this many veterans -- and I'm talking high-profile, decorated, productive guys -- included in trade talks prior to a draft. Braylon Edwards is out there. So are Tony Gonzalez, Anquan Boldin, Julius Peppers and maybe, just maybe, Brady Quinn. But it's Jason Peters who intrigues me, and maybe you heard of him.
You should. He's the starting left tackle for the Buffalo Bills and, at his best, he's one of the top players at his position. But he wasn't at his best a year ago, and that's being kind. Now he wants a contract extension that sources say averages $11.5 million-$12 million a season, and the Bills are so frustrated over their failure to reach a settlement they're thinking the unthinkable.
They're considering trading him.
|Peters entered the league as an undrafted free agent. (Getty Images)|
Which is what happened with Peters and the Buffalo Bills. They signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent, played him at tight end, moved him to right tackle, then watched him develop into a Pro Bowl left tackle.
"His ability is limitless," said then-offensive line coach Jim McNally.
So were his ambitions. Shortly taking over for former first-round choice Mike Williams, Peters signed a five-year, $15 million deal that, at the time, was considered generous. But he wanted more after the club paid unrestricted free agents Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker millions, and Peters was determined to get it.
And that's where the trouble began. Peters demonstrated his displeasure by failing to show up for last year's mini-camps and training camp and didn't return until the club insisted on it as a requirement for future contract talks. That was early September. But he missed months of preparation with a new offensive coordinator and new offensive line coach and suffered the inevitable consequences -- surrendering sacks and pressures he had not the year before.
Nevertheless, the club followed through on contract talks -- until, that is, Peters' demands reached the Jake Long/Jordan Gross stratosphere. Look, I don't care whom you think is the better tackle -- Gross or Peters -- but there is one big difference between the two: Gross signed his six-year, $60 million deal shortly before he was to become an unrestricted free agent. Peters has two years left on his contract.
That means the Bills don't have to do anything, but they're trying -- and it reminds me of something Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner once said about renegotiations: That both sides should win. When the team provides a player financial security by cutting a deal years in advance, he said, it should expect something in return -- and what it should get is a break on the cost.
Peters doesn't see it that way, and he has the Bills so frazzled now that negotiations have ground to a halt and they've thrown open the doors to a possible trade. That doesn't mean one happens, but it means one could -- and that should tell you something. It should tell you that Peters is wearing them out.
Maybe that's his intention, I don't know. What I do know is that Peters is trying to play hardball with a club that, through a string of recent re-signings (Lee Evans, Kyle Williams, Marcus Stroud), demonstrated it will pay fair-market value. But his strategy is getting neither side anywhere, and maybe that's how Peters wants it. Maybe he's pulling a Jay Cutler and hopes the Bills trade him.
Normally, you wouldn't consider dealing a Pro Bowl tackle from a club that hasn't been to the playoffs in nine years, but there is nothing normal about what's going on here. The Bills are not committed to getting rid of the guy, they're just listening to what's out there. And right now there isn't much, with league sources citing no evidence of serious interest.
But it's early. The draft is 10 days away, and talks generally don't get serious until the week preceding the draft. Nevertheless, potential suitors, be advised: The price of doing business with Buffalo is a package of draft picks that must -- absolutely must -- include a first-rounder in the April 25 draft and, possibly, a veteran player. Then, of course, you must deal with the financials, which means you must pay Peters a fortune and hope he becomes the player he was a couple of years ago.
The Bills agree that Peters deserves a raise, just not the raise he's asking for. Nevertheless, they're committed to finding a solution, with a trade one of the options -- and I can't say I blame them. That doesn't mean I would trade the guy. But it does mean I would consider it for this reason: Peters' holdout had an impact on the club last year, and the Bills don't want to endure a similar episode. Only they might have no choice. Because let's be honest, people: If nothing happens, and Peters isn't signed to a new deal by mid-summer I practically guarantee he doesn't show up at camp, and it's déjà vu all over again.
Talk about drama. I thought Terrell Owens was supposed to add that element to this year's Bills, but he must get in line behind Jason Peters.