Don't drag out talks to sign Jackson, Johnson
Gotta love this Bills team: it's been such a lovely ride, and many of us are still bracing for this thing to go careening off an under-construction off ramp and plummet back to the mean streets we've lived with since 2000.
But I don't expect it to, and that's coming from yours truly, the same faceless online armchair quarterback who habitually scorned Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey as recently as late August.
No--I don't think it's out of reach to get back into the playoffs this season, not with this group. And of this overachieving bunch, three players that have keyed the 5-2 surprise: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Stevie Johnson, and of course, Buffalo's true heart-and-soul guy, Freddy Jackson.
One of these men is getting paid according to his contribution, and that only happened fairly recently.
As fans who have lived and died with this team's many trials and tribulations, even going back to the AFL heydays, from time to time we feel entitled to spend the organization's money (not that we necessarily have the ears and interest of said organization). Is that obnoxious? Check. Delusional? Absolutely. But man, we've got a good case here: it's time to lock in the trifecta and pay Jackson and Johnson.
How long has it been since players as exciting as Johnson or Jackson played in Buffalo? It showed the Bills are capable of leaps of faith, setting aside $59 million, a cool $24 million guaranteed on Fitzpatrick, so why not protect the initial investment by making a few more.
Jackson's averaging 103 yards per game in rushing alone, and he's among the NFL's leaders in total yards from scrimmage. He runs smart and decisively. Sure, he doesn't have that extra Barry Sanders Turbo Thruster, but he seems to know exactly which direction holds the most open real estate and sprints into it.
Johnson, 6'2" and freakishly athletic, has tremendously sure hands, a rare blend of skills that make him a difference-maker.
He's not the specimen Eric Moulds was, nor the deep threat Lee Evans' talents offered. But the guy finds ways to get open, and soon--if not already--will be a player defensive coordinators must plan for. Taking him away is effectively knocking Fitz's best sword from his hand.
I don't get too caught up in the talk that fans love Jackson because he's an underdog who's overcome a lot to get to the NFL, or that fans feel a special way about Johnson because he was a seventh-round pick. It's a feel-good narrative, but we truly adore them because they pile up an embarrassment of yardage and make big plays. Need we more reason? They're electric players who are making the Bills' shockingly productive offense go.
The men who decide whether to cut the check certainly won't be too sentimental about these two deals. But even from their point of view, isn't it a safe investment; merely the cost of doing business in the NFL? They watch the games, too, and they must see what we do: game-breaking offensive threats who are just as complicit in the offense's resurrection as Fitz.
The front office has been burned several times in handing out big contracts, but these are calculated risks they must have the gumption to make and foresight to get right. But Jackson and Johnson? They're the real deal, and I don't buy that either would melt into an out-of-shape, uninterested lunker if he got a raise. So pay them before their price tag elevates further.