As the onset of 2016 NFL free agency swiftly approaches, many observers around league are keeping a very close eye on the status of contract talks between the Buffalo Bills and their left tackle, Cordy Glenn. He is far and away the best offensive lineman available, and ranks very high on the list of free agents at any position. While the franchise tag is an option, it would be very expensive, and put a major strain on the Bills' already precarious cap situation. There is a very real chance, then, that Glenn could end up with a new team next season.
For many Bills fans, this situation brings to mind the departure of Jason Peters in the 2008 offseason. Peters, like Glenn, was a quality left tackle, and the sequence of events that led to the trade that landed him in Philadelphia might still trouble some fans, especially considering the relative success he's had in Philly.
There are, however, a number of very important differences that make the situation with Peters quite unlike the one the team currently faces with Glenn.
Glenn is a free agent, while Peters was still under contract
This is the key difference between the two. Peters was unhappy with the team as far back as the 2007 offseason, largely due to the fact that the Bills gave out large contracts to Derrick Dockery (ouch) and Langston Walker (ugh) while retaining Peters, who had made the Pro Bowl in 2006, at a lesser salary. Unfortunately for him, he was still under contract for three more seasons, which led to a one-game holdout, another Pro Bowl trip, and a second holdout that triggered the trade to Philadelphia. The Bills wanted to short-change Peters, and his only option was to cause that drama. If the Bills decide to short-change Glenn, he can just walk away.
Peters was a better tackle than Glenn is
This one is subjective, but it's hard to make the argument that Glenn is playing better than Peters was at the time of his trade. The awards tally is clearly in Peters' favor; he was named to two Pro Bowls and had a second team All-Pro nod, while Glenn has no official accolades. Peters also was considered a high performer from early on in his career as a lineman, while Glenn has taken time to grow into his role as an above-average tackle. While Glenn is probably a better pass blocker than Peters was in his final Bills season, Peters was recognized as an elite run blocker, while Glenn lacks elite-level recognition in any facet of the game.
The salary cap is an issue with Glenn
Peters' unhappiness with the team largely stemmed from the fact that he was the best player on the line, but his contract was dwarfed by the free agency deals of Dockery and Walker. If Buffalo had wanted to keep him happy, they could have easily just paid him, since those Bills teams were usually nowhere near the salary cap. This team, however, is very near the salary cap. Keeping Glenn has less to do with caving in to one player's demands than it does with signing key players at other positions, and maintaining a competitive roster without tying too much money up in the tackle position. As the old saying goes, "It's nothing personal, it's just business."
While there were other differences, those three are the keys to why this situation is nothing like the one the Bills faced with Peters eight years ago. Ideally, there will also be an additional difference between the two: Glenn's career with the Bills will continue into next season and beyond.