Ryan Fitzpatrick is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes and currently ranks sixth in quarterback rating. Stevie Johnson has proven he
can be a number one in Buffalo without Lee Evans taking coverage away from him and has been Fitzpatrick’s go-to-guy since he took over week three of last season. Fred Jackson leads the league in rushing yards and rushes over 20 yards and ranks fifth in yards per carry. Fitzpatrick and Johnson have expiring contracts after this season and Jackson may be the most underpaid feature back in the league. It’s time for the Bills front office to use their surplus of money to extend Fitz and Stevie and give Freddy a significant raise.
Both major Buffalo sports franchises have horrible track records of re-upping with their stars before their price tags get too large and they
can no longer afford said playmakers. Fans of both the Bills and Sabres know the sting of losing their favorite players to free agency because the front offices of both franchises dragged their feet and wouldn’t pony up the dough when the time came to shit or get off the pot. Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Antoine Winfield, and Pat Williams are just a few names of beloved star Buffalo athletes who both franchises had opportunities to re-sign, but let walk because they refused to open their respective checkbooks. That trend has clearly been curbed with godsend Terry Pegula’s purchase of the Sabres and the extension given to elite young defenseman Tyler Myers. The Bills on the other hand are stuck with the same stingy owner that has time-and-time-again refused to pay top dollar for athletic talent.
Fitzpatrick currently ranks third on the team in terms of annual salary for quarterbacks behind his second and third string backups in Tyler
Thigpen and Brad Smith. Jackson signed a four year deal in 2009 worth $7.5 million total and is set to make $1.75 million this season. His backup, former first rounder CJ Spiller, signed a five-year, $25 million contract with $20.8 million guaranteed and up to an additional $12.5 million available in incentives. Johnson ranks second in annual salary in the wide receiving corps by default. He’s set to make $550,000 this year while the team’s slot receiver and most recent addition to the season ending injured reserve, Roscoe Parrish, is set to make $1,025 million in base with a roster bonus of an additional $500,000. Parrish has played in ten games over the last two seasons (8 in 2010) before suffering season ending injuries. Before the season began there was a report that the Bills were in talks with Parrish about a contract extension. A move that would seem unfathomable before the team would extend its number one quarterback and receiver, had it not been for the gaudy deal that Chris Kelsay received in 2010. Kelsay was given a five-year, $28.2 million extension last September much to the chagrin of the team’s fan base because of Kelsay’s consistent underachiever in relative mediocrity in years past (contract information from rotoworld.com). To play devil’s advocate for a moment however, the defensive end turned outside linebacker has looked solid in the first two games of 2011 but I digress.
The fact is the trio of Fitzpatrick, Johnson and Jackson has proven that they deserve to be paid like stars in this league. The critics may say that Fitz and Johnson haven’t done it for long enough to deserve substantial raises, but their resume from last season and two games thus far in 2011 is nothing to overlook. In 15 games over the last two seasons the Harvard grad has totaled 3,472 passing yards and 30 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions. Johnson meanwhile has hauled in 94 balls for 1,235 yards and 12 touchdowns in 18 games over that same span. Jackson on the other hand has never gone into the season as the Bills number one running back since he joined the team in 2007. All he’s done in his
somewhat limited role is run for 3,089 yards on 682 carries, which is good enough for 4.5 yards per rush. Jackson is also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for most all-purpose yards in a single season in 2009.
The Bills front office has an opportunity to slowly but surely begin to regain trust and legitimacy in the eyes of their fan base for the first time in the better part of a decade. For years the Buffalo faithful has had to watch an inferior product underperform week after week and watch the
franchise’s stars depart via free agency or trade. Winfield, Williams, London Fletcher, Nate Clements, Jabari Greer, Jason Peters, and, to a lesser extent, Paul Poslouszny have all departed because the Bills refused to pay them. Year after year this community has had to watch as the decision makers have reached and missed on prospect after prospect in the draft. It’s time for Buddy Nix to make a stand and return a once great franchise back to prominence by locking up the players that give them an opportunity to do so.