A few years back, when the Buffalo Bills were in dire need of a quarterback, they parted ways with a first-round draft pick to get one. It didn't matter that the team had other areas to address. It didn't matter that Drew Bledsoe was nearing the twilight of his career. The need was identified, the action was taken and a franchise short on optimism suddenly was injected with hope. It was a justifiable deal given the abject circumstances of the day.
With Bledsoe aging, the Bills peddled draft picks again to get the player they had determined to be their next QB. This time the price was exorbitant, with their second- and fifth-round picks in 2004 and a first-rounder in '05 going to Dallas for the right to select J.P. Losman. It made little sense, but Tom Donahoe pulled the trigger anyway and assured one and all that the franchise had not overpaid.
But the Bills had missed the mark, of course, and it became abundantly clear in 2007, when Trent Edwards, the quarterback they selected in the third round of that year's draft, came in and eventually won the starting job. The Bills finally had their franchise QB. What it cost them, cumulatively speaking, was two No. 1s, a No. 2, a No. 3 and a No. 5.
So now the Bills are 4-1, leading the AFC East, but perhaps still something shy of being a legitimate conference title contender. They could use depth in the secondary and at linebacker. Their offense yearns for another big-play receiving threat to not only relieve the burden on Lee Evans, but make him all the more dangerous in the process. Still, they're in the neighborhood of contention. Improving the offense would take some of the heat off the defense and perhaps position the Bills for the long playoff run.
Such a player was available in Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez, who had requested a trade from the downtrodden Chiefs. The Bills entered the fray and then froze.
Kansas City President and General Manager Carl Peterson is to the NFL what Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier is to the NHL. Their trade talks go something like this: Here's what I'm asking, let me know when you'll pay it. They have a perceived value in their head and they refuse to deviate.
Two NFL sources say the Bills offered a third-round draft pick for Gonzalez. Sources also say that Peterson refused to budge off his asking price, reported to be a No. 2 and a No. 5. If he was going to part with the face of the franchise it would be for what he considered commensurate return.
The Bills declined to meet the price. It took them two No. 1s, a No. 2, a No. 3 and a No. 5 to get the quarterback they were after. But they wouldn't spend a No. 2 and a No. 5 on a Hall of Fame tight end capable of maximizing that quarterback's talents while simultaneously diverting attention from the wideout they just signed to a lucrative extension. Look at it this way: Gonzalez could have been a Bill for the premium they paid to acquire Losman.
One can never be sure of the variables involved. Perhaps Gonzalez told Peterson, "Anywhere but Buffalo." But I have to think a phone call from Jim Kelly would have allayed Gonzalez's concerns. Maybe Gonzalez performed a 180, although that seems unlikely once he went public with his trade request. The guy has never won a playoff game, and now he won't for at least two more years.
All signs point to the Bills deciding that the price was too high, that the status quo suited them fine. The organization decided to hoard its draft picks the same day they unloaded John McCargo, their second first-round selection in 2006, on the Indianapolis Colts.