As the Darwin Walker holdout continues to gain steam, the Bills fan base is starting to become divided on the issue. Should we up the ante to get Walker into camp? Or are we doing the right thing by letting Walker sit? Is Walker the bad guy for asking for too much, or is our front office to blame for being "too cheap"? Everybody's answering these questions in different ways. From a statistical standpoint, however, there's only one way to look at the situation: Darwin Walker is vastly overrating himself.
While I fall on the side of the argument that Walker isn't worth the money, I do readily admit that Walker is a fantastic football player. His 27.5 career sacks make him a great pass-rush threat (especially for a defensive tackle), and he has been a bit of a playmaker throughout his career. Yet statistics show that he's a much better performer when he's not in a leading role.
Walker Can't Fly Solo
Statistical research shows that over the five seasons he started in Philadelphia, Walker had trouble playing as the Eagles' top defensive tackle. Through his first three seasons as a starter, Walker played alongside Corey Simon, once one of the most dominant defensive tackles in all of football. In those three seasons (2002-2004), Walker's stats were as follows:
2002-04 Walker stats: 48 games, 18 sacks, 86 tackles
2002 Eagles Run Defense Rank: 9
2003 Eagles Run Defense Rank: 22
2004 Eagles Run Defense Rank: 16
In the two seasons since Simon left Philadelphia (and Walker became the Eagles' top tackle), his stats suffered a bit:
2005-06 Walker stats: 29 games, 8.5 sacks, 48 tackles
2005 Eagles Run Defense Rank: 21
2006 Eagles Run Defense Rank: 26
What do these stats tell us? They tell us that when Walker has help, he can contribute to an elite defensive line. As the top man, however, he does not seem to have the ability to carry a unit.
Suited to Rotate
In Buffalo, it's likely he would be an absolute terror - since the club likes to rotate 8 defensive linemen on most game days, he'd stay fresh and wreak havoc in opposing backfields. But the stats say it all: Walker doesn't deserve to be paid like an elite defensive tackle, because he is simply not elite. The Bills likely want to pay Walker like a top-end rotational guy - and that's all he deserves.
Keep Holding Out, Darwin
Rest assured that the Bills are proceeding in the correct fashion with this situation. Fans like to point out that the team has roughly $20 million in free cap space to spend, and it's stupid to not give some of it to Walker to get him into camp. That theory is just not true - it's not how you build a winner in this league. Keep in mind that close to $5 million of that will be for rookies.
Keep in mind also that players such as J.P. Losman, Lee Evans, Jason Peters and Aaron Schobel will be looking for contract extensions. That's money that we need to ensure the long-term viability of the franchise; we just can't blow it on a guy who may or may not even want to be in Buffalo.
So keep holding out, Darwin. You're only hurting yourself. We'd love to have you here, but you're just not part of our long-term plans. So if you don't get your money here, get it for a losing franchise. We're building a winner.