The Bills have always been vigilant about getting their draft picks signed in time for the start of training camp. This preseason however, being the first team to begin preparations for the 2009 campaign, the task is a bit tougher to get every draft choice in under the wire.
As of early Friday evening, Buffalo still have their top five draft choices left to sign. Contrary to some reports, fourth-round pick Shawn Nelson had yet to sign as well as the team's two first rounders Aaron Maybin and Eric Wood and second round picks Jairus Byrd and Andy Levitre.
"Jim Overdorf and our negotiating teams have continual dialogue going on with all the parties," said Bills COO/GM Russ Brandon. "We're hopeful that everyone gets here on time, but we'll have to wait and see. There will be continual dialogue. As we all know, it takes two to get deals done and we'll keep working on it."
Brandon didn't deny that being the first team to open camp could be a factor in negotiations. With only a handful of second-round picks signed across the league and just a few first-round picks under contract, there are not many parameters to work with thus far. In some cases the Bills and the player representatives may have to be the ones setting the bar instead of working off of it.
"We are in a week earlier than most clubs and that is a variable," he said. "But we'll continue to work with these guys. Jim and his crew are working around the clock trying to get this done. Jim and I have been on the phone hour after hour and we'll see how everything plays out."
At the same time the Bills are not going to negotiate any differently than they normally do just because they're the first NFL club to open camp.
"We want to get these done, but we're going to get them done within the framework of what we feel is right in terms of negotiating with these guys," Brandon said. "We've been pretty solid at that for many years and we will continue to be. Obviously we want them here, but it's going to be a fair deal on both sides."
Wood and Levitre are two rookies with a legitimate chance to start on the offensive line at the guard positions. They'll be competing with veterans Kirk Chambers and Seth McKinney, but that competition could very well start without them Saturday morning.
"We faced the same situation last year in training camp with our left tackle," said Trent Edwards. "It's a little different situation with the guys we have now, but I think it's just probably coming down to a couple thousand dollars with getting these guys into camp. It's nothing that our guys upstairs haven't been through before. I expect them to get here as soon as possible. The sooner they are (here) the better. They need to get their feet wet and they need to start jelling together, and they need to start working together and playing together as a five-some."
"It's important," said center Geoff Hangartner. "We need them to be here so we can spend as much time working together, but at the same time, they have to do what's best for them. They've got to take care of their situation and they'll be here as soon as possible, I'm sure."
Brandon is optimistic the two linemen will be in sooner rather than later.
"We all hope so," he said. "It's tough to speculate on any of that right now. As we all know, it becomes fast and furious around this time and, like I said, we've been talking every hour on the hour and we're all hopeful that all of our guys are in here."
Top pick Aaron Maybin has been adamant about wanting to get off to a good start at camp, and his teammates know it. They also know players only have one chance to get their rookie contract right and that it's a process.
"He'll get here when he gets here," said Paul Posluszny of Maybin. "I haven't had a chance to talk to him, but I know he wants to be here, he wants to be here working out and doing his part and being here with his teammates. But you have to work out that business aspect of it first, especially with a high-round draft-pick like that. When he gets here, we are going to be happy to have him and excited for him to be a part of this defense."