Will Peters turn up in Pittsford for Bills camp? (Photo Source)
Twist this potential fact around in the old caboose for a moment: when the Buffalo Bills report to St. John Fisher College for 2008 training camp tomorrow, the team could be dealing with the absences of six holdouts. Repeat if necessary, but there should be impact the first time you read it.
If the Bills' lack of (public) movement on the signing front remains par for the course, Buffalo will likely be without star left tackle Jason Peters and five rookies for the start of summer practices.
Peters' situation has been well-documented - after skipping both voluntary and mandatory spring practices in a clear contract dispute, Peters was fined, but there has been no word on movement around a new deal. In fact, we've heard rumblings - and we freely admit that they're to be filed under the "rumor" category at this point - that the Bills are willing to play hard ball with Peters, who signed a five-year extension (worth $15 million) in July of 2006. Buffalo's willingness to extend Peters - who, at the time of his signing, had not yet made the switch to left tackle (Mike Gandy held that role at the time) - is believed to be a large factor in the team's stance.
The Bills set a precedent last August when they re-signed DE Aaron Schobel to a 7-year, $50.5 million deal with $21 million guarantees, even though Schobel still had three years remaining on his deal at the time of the signing. If the Bills are lucky, Peters will take a page out of the book Schobel wrote last year. Schobel missed all of the team's spring practices in 2007, but reported to training camp on time. He had a new deal by August 25, less than a month after training camp began. It's speculation, but it's not impossible to believe that a similar situation could emerge around Peters.
One other veteran seeking a contract extension - WR Lee Evans - is expected to report to camp with the rest of his teammates tomorrow. We're hearing that the Bills have been in discussions with Evans' agent on a new deal, but an extension does not appear imminent.
Four of Bills' Rookies Unsigned
Perhaps not as importantly, but just as curiously, four of Buffalo's ten drafted rookies were unsigned as of press time as well. It's likely that without NFL contracts, the agents of all four players - CB Leodis McKelvin (Round 1), WR James Hardy (Round 2), DE Chris Ellis (Round 3) and RB Xavier Omon (Round 6) - will advise their clients to stay away from camp until their deals are completed. Fifth-round linebacker Alvin Bowen agreed to terms with the club late Wednesday.
The potential absences of McKelvin, Hardy and Ellis could be crippling to their early development. All three players are expected to make heavy early contributions, and without those initial reps at training camp, they'll be playing catch-up from day one. At this point, it's hard not to be concerned about the lack of news on these ultra-important signings.
Stay tuned to Buffalo Rumblings throughout the evening, as well as throughout tomorrow's reporting day, as we'll keep you updated on signings as best we can.