Will Bills finally pony up to keep a corner?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills never have seemed to grasp the marketplace for starting cornerbacks.

Over the past five years, they've lost Antoine Winfield, Nate Clements and Jabari Greer to free agency.

We'll see if they finally keep one by paying Terrence McGee market value.

Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan wrote this week the Bills have opened talks to sign their left cornerback to an extension. But the club will find out -- if it hasn't already -- the proposition will be expensive.

To me, this will be one of the more intriguing off-field story lines this year. It will show whether the Bills are willing to compensate the most important position in the game behind quarterback and left tackle.

On the surface, McGee might not do much for you as a player. He made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner in 2005, but as a corner he hasn't garnered any serious recognition.

That's neither here nor there. Within the salary structure of the NFL, McGee is due to make a nice chunk of change.

"This would be the best opportunity as far as a contract that I will get in my career," said McGee, who's entering the final season of a four-year, $18 million deal. "This would be it. So we'll see."

If McGee doesn't get his money from the Bills, then he will get it somewhere else. He said he would like to remain with Buffalo, but so did Greer.

When negotiations didn't progress for Greer this past offseason, he signed with the New Orleans Saints for a contract that averages $5.75 million over four years. Greer was Buffalo's No. 2 cornerback to McGee.

Gaughan pointed out some interesting comparisons to highly paid cornerbacks Corey Webster of the New York Giants and Kelvin Hayden of the Indianapolis Colts.

McGee, who will turn 29 in October, has better stats that either of them, and they're among the NFL's 12 highest-paid cornerbacks. They average about $8.5 million a year.

Football Outsiders, who track such things, noted that McGee was targeted 95 times last year -- more than any other cornerback in the league.

Because of the sheer number of times opponents threw at McGee, his name appears in several categorical rankings by Football Outsiders. By their count, McGee ranked 14th in passes defensed with 17 and second in yardage allowed with 1,341.

But those numbers can be misleading. The Bills had an awful pass rush last year. St. Louis Rams cornerback Ron Bartell gave up 1,223 yards last year but re-signed for almost $7 million a year in the spring.