Whitner displeased with contract talks

Buffalo Bills safety Donte Whitner is unhappy with a downward turn in negotiations for a contract extension and has suggested he will become a free agent after the season.

"If things continue the way that they're going," Whitner said Thursday, "obviously, I'm going to have to hit the free-agent market and see my true value."

If there wasn't so much snow on the ground in Western New York, we might be able to hear the crickets chirping.

How should Bills fans feel about Whitner possibly hitting the open market?

Whitner is second on the team with 115 tackles, yet much of that total can be chalked up to the Bills' lackluster run defense that allows backs to bolt into the second and third levels. Whitner has one interception, six passes defensed, no sacks, one tackle for loss, no forced fumbles and one recovery.

"He's a really good player for us, very smart, a good tackler," Bills coach Chan Gailey said of Whitner last week. "He's made a lot of plays for us this year. As time goes on, I think he'll be another guy that has a major impact on our football team in years to come."

The main reason Whitner hasn't connected with Bills fans -- beyond his blunt analysis when discussing the team through the media -- is his draft position. He was the eighth overall draft choice in 2006.

The Bills also were interested in Haloti Ngata, who since has become a star for the Baltimore Ravens. But they went with Whitner instead.

Buffalo, meanwhile, has been overtaken by overachievers.

Expectations for an eighth overall pick are driven up when the team's starting quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) and top receiver (Steve Johnson) were seventh-round draft choices, the lead running back (Fred Jackson) wasn't drafted at all and its best defensive player (Kyle Williams) was a fifth-rounder.

The Bills declined to re-sign undrafted safety Jim Leonhard in part because they had Whitner. Leonhard became an important starter for the Ravens and New York Jets.

Whitner recently told reporters he was close to re-signing with the Bills and that it was just a matter of time. That news was met with indifference.

It'll be interesting to see if there's any uproar if he leaves.