Bills shouldn’t play contractual games with Peters

By Connor Byrne  |   Thursday, May 22, 2008  |  Comments( 67 )

Buffalo Bills
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It's sometimes hard to believe how far a professional athlete can progress in such a short period of time. That's the case with the Buffalo Bills' Jason Peters, who has improbably gone from undrafted free agent in 2004 to Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle in just four NFL seasons.

When the Bills signed Peters out of the University of Arkansas over four years ago, they were uncertain what position he'd play. The 6-foot-4, 340-pounder used his great size to accompany freakish athleticism (4.9 in the 40-yard dash) as a tight end for the Razorbacks. In his first year with the Bills, Peters' most memorable play was a blocked punt against the Cincinnati Bengals in a late-season victory. After Peters blocked the punt, he fell on the ball in the end zone, earning six points for Buffalo.

The next time Peters found the end zone was Week 1 of the 2005 season, when he lined up at tight end and caught J.P. Losman's first career touchdown pass, a 1-yarder. As a lineman that year, Peters started 10 games, took just three penalties and only allowed 1½ sacks. At that point, the Bills and former offensive line coach Jim McNally likely knew they had something special in Peters, and that's why the franchise signed him to a five-year contract extension after the season.

Peters' time at left tackle began midway through the 2006 season after then-head coach Mike Mularkey moved him from the right side as a replacement for the disastrous Mike Gandy. Peters didn't disappoint, surrendering two sacks in 16 starts.

Because of the incredible progress he showed during his first two years as a starting O-lineman, it wasn't surprising that Peters officially broke out last season. He turned in a stellar 15-game campaign that earned him second-team All-Pro honors from The Associated Press and a first-team All-Pro nod from Sports Illustrated. And now that he's officially among the league's elite left tackles, Peters understandably feels he deserves the big money that accompanies such high esteem. Peters is letting the Bills know he's unhappy by holding out of their organized team activities, which are currently taking place at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.

At just 26 years old, Peters still hasn't hit his prime as a blocker, and he's right to ask for a contract that rivals the ones the best at his position currently have. The Seattle Seahawks' Walter Jones, a 34-year-old who is generally regarded as the game's top left tackle, is in the midst of a seven-year, $50 million contract he signed in 2004. That deal includes $20 million in guarantees. Other AP All-Pro tackles from last season include New England's Matt Light (who's nearing the tail end of a six-year, $27.3 million accord he agreed on four years ago) and the Cowboys' Flozell Adams, 32, who inked a six-year, $42 million contract ($15 million guaranteed) this past February.

Other than being world-class blockers, the common denominator among Jones, Light and Adams is that all will be on the wrong side of 30 in Week 1. Peters, as mentioned earlier, has much more time left to shine in the NFL, and if the Bills were smart, he'd do it in their uniform for perhaps the next decade. Peters is the first top-end offensive tackle the Bills have had in a long time, and he ought to be compensated like the immensely key piece he is.

He just might be the franchise's most important player.

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