Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Signing of Steady Freddie Jackson continues Bills impressive off-season

                It’s been a great off-season for the Buffalo Bills, what with the contract extensions of Stevie Johnson and Fred Jackson, the free-agent acquisitions of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the return to health of Kyle Williams and a draft that – on paper – appears to have addressed several pressing needs.
                And general manager Buddy Nix deserves a doff of the cap for these bold moves that have given long-suffering Bills fans (are there any other kind?) a legitimate sense of hope for the first time in a dozen years.
                But, while doling out praise, let’s not forget about the man who pays the Bills. Ralph Wilson, the much-maligned owner who this off-season clearly hasn’t lived up to the public perceptions of him being cheap. The 93-old apparently didn’t just give Nix and his football people an unlimited checking account, he also appears to have stayed out of their way, and let them do their jobs.
                Of course, as we’ve learned often during this playoff famine, off-season moves don’t always pan out. But I’d be shocked if the Bills, after all these moves, aren’t a markedly better football team this fall, perhaps even a playoff team.
                I was especially pleased to see Jackson receive the two-year contract extension that pays him some upfront money for being such a loyal soldier.
 Yes, I know he is 31 – an age when running backs traditionally begin hitting the wall – and I know he is coming off a broken leg. But I believe he has a lot of football left in him, and could be even more effective now that C.J. Spiller has begun living up to the potential that convinced the Bills to draft him in the first round two years ago. Action Jackson was having an MVP-type season in 2011 (an NFL-leading 934 yards) before breaking his leg. He seems to be back to full strength and speed.
 Jackson truly is one of the league’s great perseverance stories. An undrafted free agent from Coe College (Marv Levy’s alma mater), he was playing indoor football for $200 a week five years ago. Now, with a two-year,$9-million extension, he’s going to receive the payday he deserves. He loves Buffalo and Buffalo loves him. I’m glad to see a good, hard-working person receive his due.
                From what I witnessed last Sunday, Andy Pettitte doesn’t appear ready to me. But what do I know? The Yankees have him penciled in to start Sunday against the Seattle Mariners in Yankee Stadium. Maybe Andy got knocked around the way he did by Triple-A Pawtucket because he was bored pitching these minor-league tune-ups. The Yankees could use the 39-year-old southpaw in the worst way, but given his age and the one-year layoff, that’s banking on a lot.

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