Bills Must Avoid Rookie Camp Holdouts

The Buffalo Bills made some positive waves earlier this off-season when, by June 16, the team had officially signed six of its nine 2010 NFL Draft picks to contracts. Fourth-round receiver Marcus Easley, fifth-round tackle Ed Wang, sixth-round linebackers Arthur Moats and Danny Batten, seventh-round quarterback Levi Brown and seventh-round guard Kyle Calloway all have rookie deals, and all will be reporting to training camp on time.

Getting rookies to camp on time was a severe problem for the Bills just a year ago. When 2009 training camp began, a whopping four rookies - end Aaron Maybin, guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre, and safety Jairus Byrd - remained unsigned, held out, and missed the start of training camp. Wood, Levitre and Byrd were all signed just a few days after the start of camp, and all went on to have solid (or in some cases, spectacular) rookie seasons. Maybin, however, didn't have a contract in place until August 21 - nearly a month after camp began - and there's little question that his lack of preparation severely impacted him in his desolate rookie season.

With Bills training camp set to begin anew in just 23 days, three Bills rookies - first-round running back C.J. Spiller, second-round nose tackle Torell Troup and third-round defensive end Alex Carrington - remain unsigned. Getting deals in place for Troup and Carrington over the next three weeks shouldn't be a problem, but Spiller is another matter entirely.

Carrington was selected No. 72 overall in the third round. 13 third-round picks have already signed contracts to date, so the chances that Carrington will be in camp on time are excellent. The frameworks of a deal are becoming clearer, as the No. 70 overall pick, Baltimore TE Ed Dickson, signed a three-year, $1.2 million deal just last week (with a $900K signing bonus), while the No. 75 overall pick, Chicago S Major Wright, already has a four-year, $1.79 million deal in place (with an $848K signing bonus). Carrington will likely be the first of the three remaining unsigned rookies to get a deal; the real question here is whether he gets a three- or four-year deal. (Our guess is four, but we'll see.)

Troup was selected No. 42 overall in the second round. Very rarely do second-round picks hold out; the only reason Byrd and Levitre did a year ago was because Bills camp started a touch earlier than usual thanks to the team's participation in the 2009 Hall of Fame Game. Still, no second-round picks have been signed to this point, although Jets guard Vladimir Ducasse is reportedly close. Ducasse was selected No. 61 overall, however, so clearly, there's a lot of work to be done before the parameters on a possible Troup deal become clearer.

In 2009, the No. 9 overall pick, Green Bay NT B.J. Raji, did not sign his five-year, $22.9 million deal (with $17.7 million guaranteed) until August 13. The top of the first round a year ago was very muddled, with plenty of holdouts, thanks to the antics of 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree and his notorious agent, Eugene Parker. Crabtree, selected No. 10 overall (directly between Raji and Maybin), was looking for Top 5 money, which of course makes no sense, as he wasn't a Top 5 pick. He signed his six-year, $32 million deal on October 7, and appeared in just 11 games as a rookie.

The No. 9 overall pick in 2008, Cincinnati linebacker Keith Rivers, didn't have a deal in place until August 5, however. We've got to go back to 2007, when No. 9 overall pick Ted Ginn, Jr. signed his five-year deal on July 27, to converse about a No. 9 overall pick getting into his first training camp at a reasonable point in time.

Directly after the Bills selected Spiller in April, Jacksonville selected defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, who became the third defensive tackle selected. Alualu could be a key figure in Spiller's contract negotiations; as the third DT off the board, he can't exactly hold out for top DT money, but Ndamukong Suh (No. 2) and Gerald McCoy (No. 3) were selected so early that their contracts won't have much bearing on Alualu's figures. There's a very good chance that Alualu will be one of the first of the Top 15 to sign his deal, which could accelerate Spiller's negotiations.

More than three weeks away from the start of training camp, this isn't a pressing matter - not yet, anyway. But given the slow development of Maybin after his lengthy holdout a year ago, it is imperative that the Bills avoid repeating history here, particularly with a dynamic playmaker that is such a big part of the team's plans this year.

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