With Peters holding out, pressure squarely on Bills (Photo Source)
It's Friday morning. The Buffalo Bills are set to hold their first training camp practice of the 2008 season in about a half hour. They'll be hitting the practice field without their best offensive player, as offensive tackle Jason Peters has continued his holdout and has not reported to camp at St. John Fisher College. NFL Network's Adam Schefter is reporting that Peters is contemplating a season-long holdout should he not get a new deal - and, unlike Chicago's Devin Hester, he can probably afford it.
We're all well aware of the situation. What becomes important to discuss at this point is the two sides to the story from Buffalo's perspective (because, let's face it, the ball is now in their court - Peters has made his move). The Bills, at this point, can either continue to play hardball, or they can just pay the man. Let's dive in:
Reasons to Play Hardball with Peters
Below are the reasons why the Bills should maintain their hardened stance on the Peters situation. It's important to note that no matter what we say here, this is the path that the club is most likely to follow.
#1 - His Current Contract: The Bills have shown a willingness to pay guys early in their careers that show promise. They've handed out contracts to guys like DT Kyle Williams, OG Brad Butler, CB Terrence McGee, WR Roscoe Parrish and P Brian Moorman well before they became some of the better players on the team. They did the same thing with Peters. He's scheduled to make $3.25 million this season; that's not exactly chump change. They made a commitment to Peters well before he exploded onto the scene as one of the NFL's best tackles. His actions aren't exactly showing an appreciation for that move, if he has any at all.
#2 - Maintaining Precedent: A lot of folks are likening this situation to Aaron Schobel's last season, but that's now irrelevant - because Schobel actually showed up to training camp last season. I've maintained all along that Peters would be smart enough to follow Schobel's blueprint; had he done so, the Bills might have begun talking to Eugene Parker, Peters' agent, this morning about a new deal. Now that doesn't appear to be likely. Peters' situation is unique from Schobel's, so the Bills need to maintain their stance that if you aren't here, we aren't paying you.
#3 - Commitment to Team: This ties in nicely with #2 - the Bills aren't going to pay Peters until he shows up for camp. You work, we pay - that's not an unreasonable stance to take at this time, given the commitment the team has already made to him. If I'm the Bills, I want some indication that Peters isn't thinking solely about himself here. I want him in camp to prove that he gives a damn about what the team is building here. I want to see that he's still a willing part of that. If he shows that, then let's talk about more money.
#4 - Peters' Methods: There's a better way for Peters to go about this angling for a new contract deal - like showing up for work, for instance. The organization has shown nothing but respect for Peters throughout his career here - it's been Buffalo's coaches and his opportunity here that made Peters into the player he is today. They showed loyalty to his potential with the new deal in 2006. Peters isn't returning the favor here, and the Bills have every reason to be ticked off about it.
Reasons to Pony Up the Dough
Below are the reasons why the Bills should break their stance and give Peters his new deal. It's important to note that no matter what we say here, the Bills aren't likely to take this route, at least not in the immediate future.
#1 - Team Chemistry: Buffalo is attempting to put together an offense that is capable of being slightly better than mediocre in the NFL, and the chances of that happening without Peters are remote. There are too many question marks offensively - Trent Edwards, James Hardy and an underwhelming tight end corps chief among them - to play too long without Peters. If this unit is going to gel quickly enough to turn the Bills into a playoff contender in 2008, they need to play together, and they need to play together a lot. That doesn't happen while this situation drags out.
#2 - Player Value: Only RB Marshawn Lynch compares favorably with Peters in terms of value to the offense, and Lynch's rookie deal is actually more valuable over the length of the contract than Peters' current deal. Buffalo's best offensive player should be Buffalo's highest-paid offensive player. When push comes to shove, Peters does still have a point - he deserves more money.
#3 - Establishing Precedent: This might be a good time for the Bills to establish a precedent within the organization - signing Peters would say "we recognize when a player deserves to be paid, and we're willing to do said paying". Making sure Peters gets to camp before he gets paid is an important stance to take as part of this precedent, but it's also important to pay the man. You work with me, I'll work with you. That's the right precedent to establish here - and if, miraculously, they somehow secure Peters' help with this in the near future, they might just take this step.
#4 - Developing Trent Edwards: Need I mention that Priority Number One for this team since Jim Kelly's retirement has been finding a long-term answer at quarterback? Well, the Bills think they may have found the answer in Edwards, but his potential development takes a hit with Peters sitting at home. Developing Edwards is the most important objective for the Bills to hit to ensure the long-term on-field viability of this franchise. Paying Peters may help them achieve that, but letting him sit out definitely hurts them.
My take? I'm with the Bills... for now. As I said above, they have every reason to be completely disappointed with Peters and how he's handled this situation. But there will come a point, most certainly before the end of training camp (I'd probably position this crucial point somewhere around the third pre-season game) where they'll have to get Peters onto the field one way or another. Yes, that drags the situation out, but it might have the effect of proving to Peters that he's being an idiot about this.
This is a mess. Definitely not the way we wanted to see the 2008 season start off, folks.