Not being in camp could cost C.J. Spiller, and the Bills



Here we go. It didn't occur to me until the other day, when my car radio blurted out that Buffalo Bills first-round draft choice C.J. Spiller is "in no hurry" to sign a deal.

Then it hit me, like a cool Appletini in my face after offering up a cheesy pickup line at 3 a.m. ... Spiller and the Bills will both drag this thing out until noon on Opening Day, at which point the organization will be forced to hand him way too much cash and term for too little return. It happened with Marshawn Lynch, Leodis McKelvin ... shall I go on?

This game of posturing badminton underscores the need for a rookie salary cap in the NFL, not because the Raiders got scorched by Jamarcus Russell worse than the Ottawa Senators did by Alexandre Daigle back in 1993, but because:

• It stunts the development of rookies trying to establish themselves as pros. After holding out, as if they've remotely earned that right, these kids wind up having to play catch-up on NFL playbooks and offenses that can be as complicated and confusing as the plot to Inception. Pretty soon, their debut seasons are a big, fat waste of useful experience.

• It creates instant ill will between the player and the team, with the player's agent crying "unfair" and "hardball" and teams crying "You want how much? Ha!" Meanwhile, each side says grace while the agents chew. If it does come down to hardball, Spiller's camp will deservedly hear about how he's too small and fragile to carry a team with twenty-five carries and 100 yards a game; the Bills will just as deservedly hear about how they run their organization about as well as Mel Gibson is handling his divorce.

I'd note that this annual farce also creates ill will among fans, but that would imply that the teams or players give a hoot in hell about them. We're just stuck listening to Spiller tiresomely read from the script his agent had him memorize: "It's a business. I've gotta do what's right for me and my family. Yada, yada." We'll fight the insatiable urge to gouge our eardrums out with a rusty corkscrew.

• It leaves teams with both high and low first-round choices in jail. Buffalo's suits and bean-counters can't even begin to negotiate with Spiller's agent until the Rams, Lions, Bucs, Redskins, Chiefs, Seahawks, Browns, and Raiders sign their top picks. There's a diverse mix of Donald Trumps (Skins, Hawks) and Scrooge McDucks (Raiders, Browns) in there, so who knows when that will be? August? September? Let's not overthink this. Just because this establishment of a "market" for new fish who haven't played one NFL down seems utterly silly doesn't mean it isn't utterly silly.

And how does a guy like Freddie Jackson, whose earned every penny he's paid, take it when a youngster like Spiller—who effectively sidesteps the heat, repetition and work at St. John Fisher this month—waltzes into the locker room in Orchard Park and gets an equal number of rushes per game?

Everybody loses under this ridiculous The Price Is Wrong wheel-spin. Veteran players helplessly watch as rookies earn three times as much as they do, suddenly realizing ownership sees them as an aging piece of meat whose value only depreciates with each passing Sunday. Billionaire white guys who own the teams collectively shiver as salaries climb too high. And the rookies themselves? They've waited all their lives for this opportunity, only to have an Armani-laden sewer rat like Drew Rosenhaus keep them from suiting up and playing.

What Spiller's camp undoubtedly knows, but imust be in deep denial over, is that the Bills ultimately have the stronger hand. Jackson is signed and proven, and Lynch, for all it's worth, is back at One Bills Drive and might be getting it through his thick dreadlocks and yet-thicker skull, that no other team wants any part of him. The running game will be OK without what projects to be a Reggie Bush- or Felix Jones-type gadget player.

This all brings us back to the question we bellowed out on draft night: why did they draft a running back?

It's a moot point, though. Spiller will surely get his millions, whether he turns out to be the next Chris Johnson or the next—gulp—Ki-Jana Carter.

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