Walker a no-show at Bills mini-campNew DT wants contract restructured
(June 12, 2007) — ORCHARD PARK — The agent for Buffalo Bills holdout defensive tackle Darwin Walker said on Sunday that negotiations with the team on a new contract for his client were "moving at a snail's pace."
As far as Bills general manager Marv Levy is concerned, the snail is picking up the pace.
Levy said Monday that the Bills took a big step in trying to close the gap between the two sides by offering to nix the second of the two years Walker has remaining on the current contract he was going to play under before he was traded to Buffalo by the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for Takeo Spikes and Kelly Holcomb. That would mean the eighth-year veteran would be eligible to test the free-agent market in 2008.
"We've made a proposal to eliminate the last year of his contract and he has two years to go," Levy said. "That is a fantastic concession. Let him come in and if he blows us away and he performs, then we'd do it (a new deal). But we need to see some performance from him before we do that.
"So, right now, unless there's an acceptance of that as a tremendous concession on our part, I don't see him (here)."
Walker, who turns 30 on Friday, was not here Monday morning when the Bills began a mandatory three-day mini-camp on the grass practice field behind the fieldhouse, the only player not in attendance.
Walker has not reported to the Bills since the trade was consummated in March and said he won't until the team restructures the remaining two years on his contract.
Obviously, Walker, who is scheduled to make $1.3 million this year and $1.4 million in 2008, is looking to cash in now with a big signing bonus and a contract extension.
"I was hoping he'd be here, sure," said Levy. "I have to say we're disappointed he's not from a learning standpoint. But, as I say, the final decision of that nature rides with the player, and if he's not here, the Buffalo Bills will go on."
Levy said that because these practices are mandatory — unlike the previous three weeks of organized team activities — Walker is subject to daily fines. Levy confirmed that the team could fine Walker for his absence, but he did not say whether it would, nor how much of a fine might be levied. If Walker does not report to Buffalo by Aug. 5, the Bills can exercise a clause in the trade agreement and return the 6-foot-3, 294-pounder to Philadelphia and accept the Eagles' sixth-round draft choice in 2008
. The Bills already own the Eagles' seventh-round choice as part of the original deal that sent Spikes and Holcomb to Philadelphia.
"We are obviously hoping that it does not come to that phase of the deal," said Levy, adding further that if it did, he would not second-guess the trade that would have netted only a pair of low-round draft picks in return for Spikes and Holcomb.
Walker was acquired to help fill Buffalo's dire need for a run-stuffing tackle. Last year with the Eagles he had 36 tackles and six sacks in 15 games, then had two sacks in the Eagles playoff loss to New Orleans.
Levy said he and Jim Overdorf, the Bills vice president of football operations who handles contract talks, will continue to converse with Walker's agent, Albert Irby. But he also said that if the deadline neared and Walker were not with the team, the Bills would move on and take the draft choice.
"It would be a shame," said Levy. "He's forfeiting a lot of money. He's forfeiting a career. If we have to move forward from there, we will, but renegotiating the contract now, just (isn't in the cards). I'm hopeful (Walker will be here this week). Confident is a little bit of bravado, but the hopes remain alive."
As for Walker's would-be teammates, it was business as usual under a blazing sun, and his status was not a distraction.
"No one's really talking about it," said quarterback J.P. Losman. "It's more of just, if he's going to be here and be part of this team, we want him out here. If he can make our team better, that's what we're looking for." mailto:SMAIORAN@DemocratandChronicle.com