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Price Is Rising

Lee Evans is off to his the best start -- by far -- of his five-year NFL career and making an emphatic case for a lucrative new deal from the Bills. Evans has 14 catches for 332 yards and a touchdown. His average per catch (23.7) is tops in the league among players with at least 10 receptions. Evans is the only player in the NFL with six catches of 30 yards or more.

Evans has had a 30-plus catch in the second half of all four wins. Turk Schonert, the offensive coordinator, has shown a great knack for when to throw the deep ball to Evans. He went deep on the first play of the game in St. Louis, the first play of the third quarter against Oakland. The insurance TD against the Rams came on a first-and-10. Schonert has a great feel for when to attack the opposing secondary.

Trent Edwards has been sensational, of course. He is now getting recognition as one of the league's most valuable players in the first quarter of the season. Peter King picked Edwards as his MVP of the first four weeks. Pro Football Weekly had him sixth.

King was on WGR today and said he wasn't sure the Bills would re-sign Evans, whose contract runs out after the season. He said a lot would depend on James Hardy's development. I don't see the logic there. That's the kind of statement you get from national media who don't really know what's going on with the team. Hardy has been a disappointment. He's not the same type of player as Evans, who is a pure deep threat. I don't see a connection between Hardy and the Evans negotiations. There's nothing about Hardy that would make Evans seem expendable to the front office.

The fact is, Evans' price is going up. He's proving what savvy NFL types already knew -- that he's a better player than the guys who got big free agent money over the winter. The Vikings' Bernard Berrian, who signed for six years, $42 million (with $16 guaranteed) has 11 catches for 195 yards and no TDs. His career numbers didn't measure up to Evans in the first place.

Oakland gave Javon Walker a six-year, $55 million deal. Walker has four catches for 52 yards and no TDs. Granted, he'll never see most of that money, which was part of Al Davis' maniacal attempt to buy his way into the playoff race. But it set the market, and Evans is putting himself at the front of the line in next year's receiver market.

The Bills have said they've been negotiating all along with Evans' agent. I don't know what Evans is asking, but the Bills shouldn't be scared off by the rising market for wideouts. He's a cornerstone of the team, on the field and in the community. Signing him would be a strong statement that they're serious about keeping their star players here and building toward great things.

I don't think Buffalo fans would be happy if this turned into another Chris Drury situation, where the organization was slow to act, the player got off to a big start, and the two sides drifted apart.

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