Evans doing what Peters won't - working (Photo Source)
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Lee Evans wants a new contract; he's wanted it for two years now. His teammate, left tackle Jason Peters, also wants a new contract. (Y'all may have heard that rumor.) He's wanted a new deal, at least publicly, since the 2007 season ended.
If actions speak louder than words, the Bills are currently attempting to re-sign the right guy.
Ever since putting together a 2006 season in which he caught 82 passes, scored 8 touchdowns and was mentioned as a possible Pro Bowl receiver (he did not make the team), talks about Evans' contract status have dominated headlines surrounding the player. Currently working on his rookie contract, Evans has every right to covet a new contract - he's probably not worth "elite receiver" money, but his current deal underpays him.
Peters, meanwhile, isn't working under his rookie contract. A budding talent at right tackle in the summer prior to the 2006 season, Peters was handed a 5-year, $15 million extension by the Bills - an extension he had not yet earned, and one that paid him over $5 million in bonus money immediately.
So which guy is most likely to hold out? Ask me a year ago, and I emphatically answer Lee Evans - the guy who had every reason to feel disloyal to a club that, as of yet, hadn't proven their trust in him financially. Needless to say, I've been surprised by the actions of both players. Those actions, so starkly different from each other, prove something we may not have known until this weekend: Evans is a professional in every sense of the word; Peters isn't.
Examining the Contracts
Evans' current deal is set to expire in 2010. However, a clause is written into his deal that gives Evans the option to opt out of the deal after 2009. Thus, if the Bills don't sign him prior to the start of free agency in 2009, Evans will hit the market as an unrestricted free agent.
In this, his final year, Evans will make $2.25 million in base salary. Factoring in the bonus money of Roscoe Parrish ($520K base salary, with $3.75 million in bonuses), as far as we can tell, Evans will be the second-highest paid Bills receiver in 2008, barring an extension. Evans will make slightly more than Josh Reed ($1.825 million) and tight end Robert Royal ($1.625 million).
Meanwhile, purely in terms of base salary, Peters' 2008 numbers easily outstrip the deals he's miffed about, those of Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker. Peters will make $3.3 million in base salaries this season, as compared to the $2 million of Walker and the $1.5 million of Dockery. Bonuses likely obscure the picture; we were unable to confirm bonus payouts for Dockery and Walker, but they likely add to the '08 wages they'll make significantly. Dockery has been paid $8 million of $16 million in guaranteed money to date; Walker has also received half of his $10 million guaranteed. So, at the very root of the issue, Peters has a point - he's better than either Dockery or Walker, and deserves to be paid like it (though, again, we can't actually confirm if he's making less than them in the 2008 season).
But if Peters has reasons to hold out, Evans' are better. Evans hasn't been handed a gift contract in his time in Buffalo, and he's currently entering the final year of his deal (as opposed to three for Peters). Yet it was Evans catching the first pass of training camp from Trent Edwards; Kirk Chambers did the blocking at left tackle.
Buffalo's Message is Clear
Why is Evans currently in contract discussions with the Bills, while Peters "charts a road map of silence"? Not just because Evans' situation is more urgent. Not just because Evans deserves a new contract. Evans is in Pittsford. He's working with his teammates, trying to become a better football player and part of a better team.
Buffalo is going to pay the guys who show up to work. They're doing it now with Evans. They did it last year when, after a spring mini-camp holdout, Aaron Schobel reported to training camp on time. They're maintaining that standard with Peters, and it is absolutely the right decision.
If you hear anything that your fans say, Mr. Peters, hear this: Bills fans respect loyalty. Take a page out of Lee Evans' book and do what's right, not what you feel is necessary. Evans is the kind of teammate that makes teams better. You probably are, too, but it's pretty hard to believe it at this point. Get to Pittsford. You do that, you'll probably get your deal. Until then, you're simply highlighting the difference between good teammates and bad teammates, and you're adding an inauspicious start to what could be a promising season.