PITTSFORD, N.Y. (Aug. 17, 2005) -- Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl cornerback Nate Clements informally opened negotiations for his next contract with a very high asking price.
"I'm the best and I don't settle for nothing less," said Clements, a four-year veteran who's entering the final year of his contract. "It's just like if you're the best at your job, you want to be compensated for being the best at your position."
Clements shrugged when informed Denver's Champ Bailey is currently the highest paid cornerback after he signed a seven-year, $63 million contract last year that included an $18 million signing bonus.
"I don't know what the figures look like, yet, I really don't get into that," Clements said. "I just worry about producing on the field."
Clements can become a free agent next March and his contract status was the hot topic when his agent Todd France attended training camp.
France said he's had preliminary discussions with the Bills to see whether a new deal can be reached before this season starts.
"It's too early to tell," France said. "We just have to see how bad they want him. And if it can work for both parties, that'll be great."
France didn't back off what Clements said about wanting to become the highest paid cornerback.
"That's the mentality we have ... and the approach that we're going to take," France said.
How high the Bills are prepared to go remains a question.
"We'll see," team president Tom Donahoe said. "Until we start to talk, you just don't know how it's going to go."
If a deal is not reached by Buffalo's season opener against Houston on Sept. 11, the sides have agreed to continue discussions after the season is over.
Clements was Buffalo's first-round draft pick in 2001 and the Ohio State product has been a key player on a defense that led the NFL by generating 39 turnovers last year and has twice finished second in fewest yards allowed.
Considered among the league's top emerging shutdown corners, he's coming off his best season, in which he matched a career high with six interceptions and had a career-high four forced fumbles. His most memorable game last year came in Buffalo's 33-17 win over Cincinnati, when he forced a fumble and held Bengals' top receiver Chad Johnson to two catches for 10 yards.
Overall, Clements has 18 interceptions -- four of which he's returned for touchdowns -- and seven forced fumbles.
Clements is also a proven punt-return threat, having returned four for scores. His six touchdown returns are a franchise record, and he's the only Bills player to lead the team in interceptions for four consecutive years.