I’m trying to game theory this thing. Major assumption is that all parties will act out of economic self interest.
Peters: I proclaim myself the best left tackle in the NFL and therefore deserve to be paid as such. My evidence is All Pro 2 years. I demand $12 million per.
Bills: Is he the best left tackle in the NFL and/or is he worth $12 mm? No to both. Let’s negotiate and explore a trade. Maybe some other team thinks he’s worth a No.1 and 3. The NFL pundits react by not puking all over the Bills’ demand but questioning Peters’ proclamation.
Rest of League: Judging solely by the fact that no deal has even been hinted at, the Eagles and others have concluded that a No.1 and 3 (or anything close) plus $12 million to a guy with questionable attitude and work ethic, no way. Timing is a real issue here as doing a deal with the Bills before draft day benefits the Bills because they would have a known hole to deal with and draft pick(s) to use. After draft day the Bills can only deal with a Peters’ hole by trade. Assuming the Bills do not draft a top left tackle prospect while retaining Peters, post draft deals for the Bills require more in a trade since an option for them has been foreclosed.
This appears to be where we are now. The following feels logical and I know that logic does not often prevail, especially with desperate people on both sides. But I’m relying on game theory where parties act out of their economic interest.
Peters: I’m under contract for 2 years; holding out cost me a lot of money last year ($600k), reduced my effectiveness (11.5 sacks) and therefore my market value (no takers at $12mm). If I do that again, I’m arguably harming myself. Every day I stay out of camp costs money and every game I miss costs mega money. How can that be in my economic self interest? Why don’t I go as far as I can in a brief holdout, take either what the Bills or others put on the table or play out another year and revisit the market again? The most important thing I can do if I do not sign a new contract is to have a great season. The worst things I can do are 1, not play at all and 2, play poorly. Of course, by playing I always assume the risk of a career ending injury. This is an acceptable risk.
Bills: The coaching staff is in a “win at any cost” situation and the front office is in a “win at almost any cost” situation, but they both know that nobody will give the Bills what they think is fair value plus pay Peters. Even his greedy agent has to recognize the facts. To reiterate them: if he is good enough to warrant the top salary for a left tackle in the league, he is worth a 1 and 3 pick plus $12mm. Since no one is willing to accept that offer, the market says he isn’t good enough. Let’s make him a reasonable offer (and make sure the fans know we made a reasonable offer) and take our chances. We can rely on Peters ultimately concluding that he cannot afford a material hold out. Even with him we are unlikely to make the playoffs (our best player (Lynch) is out for 3 games), so mortgaging our future on him is not a good bet for the franchise. Draft day will proceed assuming Peters plays but a tackle is taken in tha middle rounds.
Conclusion: Peters stays, holds out through the first 2 preseason games and comes back without a new contract. Of course, the Bills go 7 and 9.