The Buffalo Bills' offseason has been a success so far, and we haven't even reached the draft. They did some things that perhaps haven't happened in Buffalo ever: They re-signed their own worthy talent and have landed attractive free agents in their primes.
With all this hoopla surrounding the success of the off-season, there are a couple of white elephants in the room, the biggest of all being the contract status of star running back Fred Jackson.
In the past, Jackson stated that he has been "annoyed" by the lack of a better contract than his current one. The team has promised that it will re-up Jackson, who was the NFL's leading rusher at the time of his injury, a broken fibula. But what type of contract can he expect? After all, he is 31, and like many seasons prior, Jackson will also enter next year with no assurances that he will be the starting running back in Buffalo.
To perhaps add insult to injury is the fact that Buffalo has been spending big money on its deficient defensive line, meaning it could see Jackson's contract as a luxury. The Bills' current cap after the Mark Anderson signing could equate to less than $7 million in cap space.
With the upcoming rookie class likely to take anywhere from $3-6 million out of the cap space left, you can see how it would be hard to give Freddy the money he is looking for.
How the Bills could possibly do it is by cutting some veterans that might not fit into the Bills' long term plans, like Chris Kelsay, Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson or even Terrence McGee. All of these guys are amongst the highest-paid players on the Bills and are in their 30s or close to them.
If all of them are cut, the Bills would have a slight leadership void, but a tremendous amount of cap space to really restructure the team moving forward.
This is one possible solution, but making cuts like this has the ability to disrupt the locker room tremendously, and also make Buffalo complacent to the meaning of making the playoffs. There is something to be said about a group of players fighting to make the playoffs for guys like Kelsay and McGee, who have played so long yet not been there.
Jackson would likely be patient on his contract demands to make sure his veteran friends have a chance at this moment of triumph. But what is a realistic contract for Jackson at this point in his career? I think a contract rate very similar to what Michael Turner is getting from the Atlanta Falcons is fair for Jackson at this point in his career.
If Buffalo were to draw up a contract in the neighborhood of three years and $15-17 million total with negotiable incentives, then Jackson should sign with pleasure. If Jackson wants more than that, I believe Buffalo has to look elsewhere.
With all that being said, based on the factors mentioned, Jackson's age, the presence of C.J. Spiller and the fact that you can always find a running back, Jackson should be happy to make anything over $3 million a year playing for the Bills. While the Bills might be able to award him a contract worth more than that, it is debatable as to whether or not they should.