OT Peters deserves to be paid (buffalobills.com)
Last summer, Buffalo Bills left tackle Jason Peters made waves when he missed every voluntary and mandatory Bills workout from March straight through the night before opening kickoff. The six-month-long hiatus was Peters' attempt at wrestling a new contract out of the Buffalo Bills' front office - and to date, it hasn't worked. Peters has played in 13 games for the Bills this season, all under his current deal.
Now, with the Bills less than a week from playing their season finale, "Peters Holdout Watch II" is about to commence. Peters was given assurances that his deal would be worked on after the season; Buffalo's front office would do well to deliver on that promise as soon as possible.
Is a Bills player more hated?
Imagine, for a second, that head coach Dick Jauron wasn't so wildly unpopular amongst the Bills' fan base. This fan base has a lot of angst, and it's generally projected on one person associated with the team at a time. It's pretty safe to say that if Jauron wasn't taking several million for the team at this point in time, Peters would be the least popular person at One Bills Drive.
Fans are still irate over the lengthy holdout, and rightfully so - he made a lot of enemies with his strange holdout tactics, most notably his vow of silence throughout the entire ordeal. He struggled when he returned, giving up big sacks and missing key blocks while he slowly adjusted to offensive line coach Sean Kugler's new blocking schemes. Even when the Bills were 5-1 and in sole possession of the AFC East lead, Peters was a source of consternation amongst Bills faithful.
He dug himself in deeper last week when, after being voted into his second consecutive Pro Bowl, Peters uttered the following:
"It's overwhelming. This is why you play the game. To get to Hawaii."
Well, no, getting to Hawaii really isn't why you play the game, Jason. If you're one of the folks who was baffled when Peters said that, I'm right there with you.
Give him his money ASAP
With that said, ornery feelings toward a player are hardly a reason to entertain letting the guy walk, or even trading him. Part of the reason that the Bills are stuck in neutral after three consecutive near-.500 seasons under Dick Jauron is that the Bills are stuck trying to fill holes every year in terms of personnel - and they're self-inflicted wounds. We had depth issues at cornerback when we let Nate Clements walk. Angelo Crowell's tryst with the IR created a gaping hole at linebacker right before the season. Willis McGahee was traded, creating the need to draft Marshawn Lynch.
Now, granted, not all of these personnel moves were poor decisions. That's the nature of the business. But willingly parting ways with Peters because of fan-base angst, a couple of sacks and a contract dispute would follow a disturbing pattern of neutrality. Signing him, on the other hand, would be a step forward - read, progress - for the young Bills.
Peters will be 27 years old at the start of the 2009 season. He's sturdy, dependable (on the field), and in his prime. Like him or not, he's one of the elite players at his position. He should be paid; he must be paid. And the sooner he gets his money, the better.
Make progress... for once
Avoiding another holdout situation with Peters is completely in the hands of Buffalo's front office. We know what Peters will do if he doesn't hear from the Bills about his contract. Last summer, I backed the Bills' stance, as Peters had three years left on his deal and was, frankly, acting like a moron. I'm not prepared to take the same stance if the same situation occurs this off-season. Avoiding a holdout is a must. Paying Peters is a must. Get Peters his money ASAP, and you avoid a headache, lock up a great young player in his prime, and make progress. And progress is what it's all about, right?