Bills better off if Aaron Schobel stays away

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Aaron Schobel's status with the Buffalo Bills is a lot like "Passions," a soap opera nobody cares to follow.

But it's a storyline, and it's happening.

Schobel, a pass-rusher who has been selected for two Pro Bowls, can't seem to decide whether he wants to keep playing football. He said in June he was leaning toward retirement. Now signs point to his possible return a week or so into training camp.

Yay for Buffalo, right?

I don't see it that way. If I'm the Bills' front office, I'd rather Schobel stay away at this point. And maybe that's why Schobel is changing his mind. Perhaps it's a cute ploy to force the Bills into a trade.

Either way, the Bills would be better off without him.

Yes, Schobel would improve Buffalo's defense. Every team could use a pass-rusher. He has recorded 78 sacks in nine NFL seasons.

But the circumstances make him not worth it. Buffalo is in a rebuilding phase. Schobel would receive a base salary of roughly $6 million this year if he plays. His cap hit is about $8.3 million, highest on the team.

Schobel will be 33 years old in September and has earned a certain degree of respect, but do the Bills, who are trying to lay a new foundation, need a player who didn't commit himself to work alongside his teammates for several months?

He missed every offseason workout, including mandatory minicamp. He has been a 4-3 defensive end his entire career, but the Bills have switched to a 3-4 defense under new head coach Chan Gailey and new coordinator George Edwards.

Jason Taylor, a player who has accomplished substantially more than Schobel, drew the ire of new Miami Dolphins boss Bill Parcells in 2008 for choosing not to participate in offseason workouts following a 1-15 season. Parcells wanted to establish a new culture and eventually catapulted Taylor off the roster, trading him to the Washington Redskins for a second-round draft pick.

Edwards was Miami's inside linebackers coach at the time.

If Schobel isn't bluffing about a return to Buffalo, there's no telling what kind of shape he would report in. He hasn't been working out under the watch of Buffalo's new strength-and-conditioning crew.

Buffalo's legendary coach, Marv Levy, once noted that when a player starts thinking about retirement he already has retired. I have a hard time imagining that a man leaning toward retirement pushed himself to stay in top shape.

Plus, there's no guarantee Schobel will return next year either. The Bills could bring back Schobel for a season in which they finish fourth and then watch him walk away in 2011 with $6 million of their money and nothing to show for it.

Save the cash and give the snaps to younger players who want to be around for a while.