Game of hardball reaching climax

Jason Peters' holdout is nearing Code Red. The regular season is only a few short weeks ago and the Bills' stalwart left tackle remains a no-show. Still, the Bills seem perfectly content without him. The ball's in Peters' court now. As the season nears, his comeback seems more and more likely, BFR's Tyler Dunne explains...

The Bills aren't blinking.

Jason Peters isn't budging.

The beat goes on.

One day of camp remains and Buffalo's starting left tackle still hasn't shown up. With the regular season only a few weeks away, it doesn't appear either side is any closer to a contract agreement. Peters is scheduled to make $3.25 million this season – less than the contracts of Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker. Hence, his beef.

No one is saying Peters isn't better than Dockery or Walker. Any diehards that do are probably still holding out hope for Rob Johnson and Jonathan Linton. Anchoring the blind side, Peters was the biggest reason Buffalo allowed its least amount of sacks since 1981. Nonetheless, Russ Brandon and the Bills brass have put up a Berlin Wall of stubborness in contract talks, arguing that Peters must report to the team if he wants any contract talks to commence.

In the meantime, the Bills have plugged away with a refurbished line. Walker moved to left tackle, Kirk Chambers has filled in at right tackle, and so far, so good in the Bills' mind. The latest leverage has swung in Buffalo's favor. Walker allowed one sack to Pittsburgh's James Harrison last week, but overall, the line held strong. Trent Edwards completed 9-of-11 passes with two touchdowns, Marshawn Lynch averaged five yards per carry and the run game churned out 159 yards on 31 attempts.

If Edwards would have caught three or four head whiplashes from the backside and the rushing game was mudded to a dead heap, then maybe, the Bills would have been a tad more open-minded with Peters.

But they're not turning back now. And Peters – after already collecting fines at a gangsta rapper's pace – may be changing his tone. He'll enter the third year of his five-year, $15 million deal. Now that he sees the Bills clearly aren't blushing, Peters could show up any day now. His career is too young to waste away Sundays on the couch. The Bills may be dead-wrong in their approach. The franchise has struggled mightily at left tackle for more than a decade, leading to successive quarterback controversies and eight straight playoff-less seasons. The offense's success against the Steelers is also just one meaningless exhibition game against an elementary base defense.

But during my talk today with Bo Mattingly on ESPN 1190 Arkansas, Mattingly made a great point. Great players get taken care of. Stick with a crummy contract for one more leg on the relay and reap the rewards i.e. Tony Romo he noted.

Sometimes it just needs to take a gulp of pride-swallowing.

Yes, Peters deserves to be paid in an Alan Faneca-stratosphere. It's just going to take an extra ‘umph' of energy on his part, because the Bills obviously don't care. They practically rubbed salt into Peters' wounds by extending the contracts of Kyle Williams and Brad Butler – two serviceable, borderline starters, not stars.

Each passing day is further proof that the Bills are more committed than ever to sit comfortably behind the Berlin Wall they've created, content with arguably their best player nowhere in sight.

Jason Peters' holdout has been the best story nobody knows about, almost mainly because the nation's resident lineman caretaker, Mark Scherleth, hasn't ESPNed the story into the national eye. But Peters' holdout is easily the team's biggest question mark as the season nears.

Langston Walker was a pleasant surprise last season, but who's to say he doesn't revert to his '06 form when he was part of the Oakland line that surrendered an embarrassing 72 sacks in a 2-14 year? A shaken-up line is an unsettled line. Kirk Chambers could easily crumble at right tackle, and the progress made by Buffalo's young offense could be derailed with one hit on Edwards. Buffalo opted to keep J.P. Losman and not add a veteran to back up Edwards. God forbid, one injury to Edwards instantly crushes Buffalo's playoff hopes. Jittery than ever, Losman is a scary Plan B.

Peters' presence on the blind side gives the Bills peace of mind.

But for now – at least externally – the Bills are as peaceful as can be, which may trigger Peters to return and work a bit more for the payday he deserves.

thdunne@gmail.com


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