In Retrospect, Buffalo Bills Handled Takeo Spikes and Darwin Walker Correctly

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In Retrospect, Buffalo Bills Handled Takeo Spikes and Darwin Walker Correctly
It was March 27, 2007, almost one full year ago, when the Buffalo Bills made waves by trading linebacker Takeo Spikes and backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb to the Philadelphia Eagles for defensive tackle Darwin Walker and a seventh-round pick in this year's draft.

Spikes, a two-time Pro Bowler for the Bills, had asked the organization for a trade because he didn't want to partake in its rebuilding effort. Coming off a 70-tackle season, his first since tearing his Achilles tendon in September 2005, many believed the 31-year-old was on his way to becoming a dominant linebacker once again. That didn't happen in 2007, though, as Spikes had a quiet season for the 8-8 Eagles (85 tackles, one sack, zero forced turnovers) -- who were only one victory better than the seven-win Bills -- and was released Thursday.

On the opposite end, Walker was supposed to bring a pass-rushing element to the middle of Buffalo's defense, but he held out because the team wouldn't give him a new contract. As a result, Walker was traded to the Chicago Bears -- who gave him a five-year, $25 million deal -- in the summer for a fifth-round pick in this year's draft. In 11 games last year for the ultra-disappointing Bears, champions of the NFC in 2006, Walker amassed 17 tackles and only one sack.

Finally, Philadelphia traded Holcomb to the Minnesota Vikings in August; thus, he never actually suited up for a meaningful game as an Eagle. Holcomb, 34, is now a free agent.

Oddly, three of the pieces from the nearly one-year-old trade have failed to pan out in their new settings. (The jury is still out on Walker, to an extent, and Buffalo will use its seventh-rounder from the Eagles in April.) Originally, it was viewed as a deal that would benefit both sides: Buffalo was supposed to receive much-needed help at D-tackle; Philadelphia thought it was getting a rejuvenated Spikes.

Wrong and wrong.

One of the two picks remaining from that highly publicized trade was the fifth-rounder the Bills received from the Bears for Walker. Last weekend, though, Buffalo dealt that choice (along with a third-rounder) to the Jacksonville Jaguars for another DT, three-time All-Pro Marcus Stroud.

Unlike Walker, who views himself as an elite defender but actually isn't, Stroud is a top-flight tackle. As long as the 30-year-old is fully recovered from an ankle injury that has hampered him the last two seasons -- and there's no reason to believe he isn't -- then the Bills, one year later, will have finally found the solution to their woes in the defensive middle.

Should Stroud have an immediate and lasting impact in Buffalo, ex-general manager Marv Levy's decision to trade an over-the-hill linebacker and an inconsequential quarterback for Walker last March and then refuse to meet Walker's contractual demands might inadvertently go down as one of the best in recent Bills history -- especially if the seventh-round choice bears fruit.

Funny how things turn out sometimes, isn't it?

*E-mail: cbyrne@realfootball365.com.

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