Replacing Jason Peters

As I'm sure you're all well aware by now, we'll keep the basics short: on Friday, the Buffalo Bills pulled off one of the bigger trades in team history, shipping OT Jason Peters to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for first- and fourth-round picks in the 2009 NFL Draft (Nos. 28 and 121 overall) as well as an undisclosed 2010 day two selection.

Whether you're pleased that the fiasco is over, upset at the team's willingness to trade elite talent or confounded by the various intricacies of the deal, the fact of the matter is that it's over.  Peters has signed his new deal with the Eagles, and both teams have announced the deal.  It's time to move on - and the Bills have a lot of work to do.

There are a lot of ways the Bills can go about filling the void at left tackle.  None of them are ideal - but, then again, neither was the 2008 version of Jason Peters.  Here's a quick run-down of Buffalo's options.

Scenario one: move Langston Walker to left tackle
When Peters missed the season opener last year, the Bills had no issues switching right tackle Langston Walker to the left side.  Entering his eighth season in the league, Walker has never been an elite pass blocker.  He is, however, an intelligent football player that is consistent in his technique and reads, which helps him make up for some of his athletic shortcomings.  He has a very small sample size at the position, but he acquitted himself well against the Seahawks.  At the very least, he'd be a stable, consistent player at that position.

In this scenario, one of two players would replace Walker at right tackle.  The most obvious candidate is Kirk Chambers, a veteran that has proven himself valuable as a fill-in at both tackle positions as well as guard.  A darkhorse candidate, however, is second-year player Demetrius Bell, a seventh-round draft pick in 2008.  The Bills have shown a willingness to insert young players into the lineup at right tackle (see: Peters, Jason and Pennington, Terrance), and they are reportedly very high on Bell's potential and his progress in the practice setting last year.

Scenario two: preserve continuity, make Chambers your starter
The Bills don't have to move Walker to left tackle; when Peters missed the final two games last season, Chambers slid into the starting lineup and played consistently as well.  Considering the fact that the Bills will feature at least three new starters on their offensive line (including center Geoff Hangartner and replacements at tackle and left guard), the Bills may choose to preserve as much continuity as possible and keep Walker and right guard Brad Butler together for another season.

Scenario three: draft an OT at No. 11
There are four outstanding OT prospects available in this year's draft class.  Two of them - Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe - are not expected to last beyond the top five selections.  Either of the other two players, Alabama's Andre Smith and Mississippi's Michael Oher, could be available when the Bills pick at No. 11 overall in the first round.

I feel pretty comfortable making a guarantee here: I believe strongly that if Andre Smith were available when the Bills pick, he'll be the selection.  They'd plug him in at left tackle and be completely satisfied.  I also feel comfortable stating that they will at least entertain the idea of moving up to take Smith if the ultra-talented, enigmatic tackle were to last beyond the seventh or eighth selection.  I'm not saying they would, just that they would consider it.

I'm not sure I can make the same public claims about Oher if he were available.  There are at least three other prospects that the Bills would strongly consider alongside Oher at No. 11, and there's a strong chance they could gamble a bit and take a defender - this team needs a defensive playmaker just about as much as they need a left tackle.  The Bills will not force the issue, folks.  They never do when it comes to the draft.  They will most certainly consider any and all available OT prospects with their first pick, but it's not going to be imperative that they take one.

Scenario four: draft an OT at No. 28 or No. 42
With three picks on the first day of the draft - in the top 42 selections, no less - the Bills could see an opportunity to take a defender (or a tight end) with their top selection and draft an OT with one of their next two selections.  There are several second-tier OT prospects that could intrigue Buffalo with their second first-round selection, including Connecticut's William Beatty, Arizona's Eben Britton and Oklahoma's Phil Loadholt (with the latter two likely getting looks at right tackle initially).

If they choose to wait again, Penn State's Gerald Cadogan, South Carolina's Jamon Meredith and Tulane's Troy Kropog could be considerations.  All three have the potential to be elite pass blockers, but they've got some work to do in the strength and run-blocking departments.  The Bills would be taking a risk asking any of these players to start, but the talent of these prospects in undeniable.  If they waited on OT twice, they would likely consider some late-round prospects as well to further boost their depth at the position.

Sound off!
If you're asking me, I'm telling you that I think the Bills are secretly keeping their fingers crossed that they can find a way to land Andre Smith.  Which scenario would you prefer to see play out in Buffalo, Bills fans?

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