When star running back Fred Jackson began voicing his desire for a contract extension last season, I did not see this ending well.
On one hand, Jackson had been the focal point of the Bills offense for the past three years, and had recently transcended into the role of a superstar. He had become an elite running back, and losing him would be a crushing blow to a vastly improving Bills team looking for its first playoff appearance in over a decade.
On the other hand, Jackson would be 31 at the start of the 2012 season, and running backs over 30 rarely get the kind of money many thought Jackson would be asking for.
When Jackson broke a bone in his leg in Week 10, and C.J. Spiller proceeded to play well after a couple of forgettable starts, I thought Jackson's hopes for an extension were extinguished. Drafting a running back early and forming a committee rushing attack to replace Jackson seemed to be in the future for the Bills, as both sides had valid reasons as to why Jackson should/should not get a big extension.
Needless to say, what happened today was a surprising display of something not often found in today's NFL: loyalty.
Jackson could have easily attempted to rob the Bills blind after his stellar play in 2011. He played just as well as any big-money running back in the league, and could have tried to get paid like one.
The Bills just as easily could have low-balled Jackson, feeling that he was simply too old to receive the kind of money other running backs playing at his level get, as it would cripple the franchise if he couldn't live up to it.
Instead of dragging this out into the messy contract dispute that I foresaw, however, they met right in the middle, inking Fred Jackson to a solid two-year/$9 million deal that is fair on all accounts.
It's not the blockbuster, big-money deal that Jackson certainly could have attempted to get, nor is it an insult to Jackson's abilities on the football field. What it is is a testament as to what all NFL franchises/players should strive for when negotiating contracts.