Which teams might have interest in Peters? (buffalobills.com)
Reports from The Buffalo News on Friday morning indicated that negotiations between the Buffalo Bills and OT Jason Peters may reach a stalemate. According to Mark Gaughan's source, the team and Peters' agent, Eugene Parker, are about $3 million in annual salary apart in their respective offers, and given the circumstances of Peters' holdout last summer, it's not difficult to envision the negotiations reaching an impasse.
The NFL Draft is just over six weeks (43 days) away. If the Bills can't get a deal done with Peters within a week or two of the draft, trade talks surrounding Peters will heat up. In fact, the rumors have already started.
From everything I've heard, negotiations are slow, but optimism on behalf of both parties remains high. Should push come to shove, however, it would be wise for the Bills to deal Peters, even if it means opening up a gaping hole on their already porous offensive line. In our opinion - and we have no inside information to put any sort of factual claim to any of this - there are (at least) five teams that would give the Bills a call should Peters "officially" be put on the trade block.
As mentioned at the above link, the Eagles have already been linked to the Bills and Peters in terms of trade rumors. The team lost starting left tackle Tra Thomas to Jacksonville, and right tackle Jon Runyan isn't likely to be re-signed. The Eagles did dole out big money to bring in new right tackle Stacy Andrews (6 years, $42 million), but they still have a huge void to fill on the left side of their line.
Considering the amount of money they have invested in their right tackle, the Eagles ideally would probably prefer moving up in the draft and selecting a rookie at the bottom or just outside of the top ten, where the money investment would be significantly lower than if they acquired Peters. But as they're already rumored to have spoken to the Bills, it's likely that their interest is legitimate. With two first-round picks (21 and 28 overall) this year, they certainly have the ammo to make a deal - and said deal might only require one of those picks.
The Lions' entire roster is a mess, and obviously that includes their offensive line. Like the Eagles, Detroit has two first-round picks this year (1 and 20 overall). Finding a franchise left tackle is a must for them - and if the team drafts Matthew Stafford with the top overall choice as is widely anticipated, the team might have a hard time getting that left tackle.
The Lions do still have Jeff Backus and last year's first-round pick, Gosder Cherilus, and they also signed former Titan reserve Daniel Loper, who re-unites with coach Jim Schwartz. The Lions certainly have the money to pay Peters, but Buffalo won't be interested in the top overall selection, and it seems a bit of a stretch to assume that the Lions would be willing to dole out $35 million in guarantees to their top pick and then close to double it with Peters' new deal. Still, they're an interesting team to monitor, as they certainly have the need.
St. Louis Rams
This is a very similar situation to the Lions, minus the Rams having two first-round picks. Orlando Pace is gone. The Rams' current plan is to move the unspectacular, yet somewhat dependable Alex Barron to the left side, then move guard Jacob Bell to right tackle. Folks, Alex Barron simply isn't a franchise left tackle. The Rams obviously have an opportunity to pick one with the second overall pick, but if Aaron Curry is available, they might pull the trigger on the linebacker. The Rams do have pretty significant dollars tied up in Bell and new center Jason Brown, so they might feel inclined to avoid giving big bucks to another lineman, particularly when Peters could be had for slightly less.
Just like with Detroit's top overall pick, the Bills likely wouldn't have interest in the Rams' second pick. But the Rams do pick early in the second round, where top quality offensive guards will still be available, and if the Bills could nab that selection and possibly a future first or second rounder, they might pull the trigger. Still, though, St. Louis would have to be willing to dole out a third ultra-serious contract to an offensive lineman, which might be difficult for them to do with Brown in the fold.
The Cardinals have brought back Kurt Warner for at least one more season. That deal was reportedly contingent on the Cards re-signing WR Anquan Boldin, but now Boldin is apparently on the trade block. If Boldin goes, the Cards will need to do something substantial to placate Warner, and a franchise left tackle to upgrade over Mike Gandy would be a start.
Obviously Arizona will be picking second to last in the first round, so the Bills might be able to finagle that pick plus another pick should the Cardinals show interest. Two major questions hinder this deal, however: how does Peters fit in once Matt Leinart takes over the quarterback duties in the desert (i.e. does he move to the right side?), and would the Cardinals be interested in giving Peters a mega-deal after giving out Top 5 dollars to '07 first-round pick Levi Brown?
This one is easily the most unlikely option, but you have to figure that the Steelers would at least give Buffalo a call on Peters. Pittsburgh's offensive line was terrible last season; Ben Roethlisberger got hit more than any quarterback in the league. That needs to be rectified, but the Steelers have re-signed Max Starks, Willie Colon and Chris Kemoeatu. Not much has changed yet; obviously, the draft will help.
Pittsburgh is in a similar situation pick-wise as Arizona, so the Bills might be able to get more than one pick out of the Steelers in a trade, including the final pick in the first round. But the Steelers are a penny-pinching, small-market franchise that prefers to get by with defense and a power rushing attack. Peters obviously fits what they like to do offensively, but it's unlikely that the Steelers would be willing to dish out large bucks for a tackle, particularly with Starks making big bucks in '09 off of his franchise tender. They certainly need line help, but they've always been a franchise that looks to the mid-tier free agents and the draft to fill their needs. They also guard draft picks jealously.
When you're talking about trading a player that will command the type of salary and guaranteed money that Peters is going to require, the market for the player shrinks considerably. If Peters were seeking a deal much smaller, the trade market would be huge - but it'd also be a moot point, because the Bills would just re-sign him. Still, all it takes is one team to make a deal happen. The clear top priority for the Bills and for Peters is for the player to stay in Buffalo - and again, we haven't heard anything drastic to the point where reaching an agreement is out of the question. A deal very well could be done within the next month or so. But if push comes to shove and Peters hits the trade block, Buffalo's options will be limited. This Peters issue is, by miles, the most important factor in need of resolution. Stay tuned.