Butler the third lineman on long-term deal (Photo Source)
Well, this isn't exactly what we had in mind, front office executives of the Buffalo Bills. But kudos.
On Wednesday, the Bills made a significant move in locking up one of their young offensive linemen with a long-term contract. No, it wasn't Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, who missed every spring workout in a contract dispute. Instead, it was third-year starting right guard Brad Butler who received the contract extension; like the Bills did with Peters in 2005 - before he ever made the switch from right to left tackle - the Bills have locked up one of their young, budding stars on the line for the foreseeable future.
Terms of Butler's new deal were not disclosed; these things usually are made public in some fashion given time, so we'll continue to search for terms of the contract and will report them here when available.
Although Rotoworld sees this Butler signing as a clear indication that he was a "bigger priority" than Peters, that's not necessarily true. In fact, it's far more likely that Butler was merely the easier priority at this point in time; it's much easier to sign a player to a contract extension if that player wasn't necessarily expecting it, and if the player isn't holding out for a new deal.
Regardless of the order of priority, re-signing Butler was an excellent move for the Bills to make at this juncture. Not just because Butler is a superb young run blocker with the potential to become a long-term mainstay at right guard. Not just because with tackle experience, Butler could also move outside in a pinch. No, this was a great move because it gives the Bills three solid linemen - Butler, guard Derrick Dockery and tackle Langston Walker - who will be Bills at least for the next four years. Continuity along the offensive line is rare in today's NFL, and the Bills will have 60% of their current starting line for a significant chunk of time.
But now, Butler's out of the way. To that end, 60% of the line is out of the way. There's mounting pressure now on the organization - if there wasn't already - to get a new deal for Peters done. Principles matter not in this issue - whether Peters should be asking for a new contract is now beside the point. The Bills have a good thing going on their line. If they lose Peters for even a few training camp practices, they're risking undoing all the good they've done by inking their other three linemen to long-term deals.
The time to act is now - with a month to go before training camp starts, expect the Bills to do plenty of negotiating over the next month. Not only is Peters holding out, but WR Lee Evans and LB Angelo Crowell are expecting new deals as well (both are free agents after the 2008 season). The team still has seven rookies to sign to new deals, including two - CB Leodis McKelvin and WR James Hardy - who are expected to play significant roles as rookies. That's ten contracts at a maximum that may be handed out relatively soon.
But in terms of long-term importance, Peters takes the prize. Franchise left tackles don't grow on trees, but the Bills got theirs in the form of an undrafted free agent tight end with a dash of elbow grease. I'll reiterate: whether Peters should be asking for an extension is now beside the point. He's the best offensive player on this team, and if the Bills let him sit out to prove their point, it hurts them on multiple levels. Get him signed. When that happens, the line is set to be a solid one for a long time.