Jackson is an exclusive-rights player. Although his contract is up, he doesn't have enough NFL time served to negotiate with other clubs. In other words, Jackson can re-sign with the Bills or buy a ticket if he wants to go to a game.
The Bills and Jackson's agent, Jerry Douglas, have exchanged proposals but remain far apart in negotiations.
But what has agitated Jackson even more were comments from Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon on Wednesday.
Brandon, speaking at a pre-draft luncheon, was asked about this year's arrests of running back Marshawn Lynch and safeties Donte Whitner and Ko Simpson. Brandon defended the team's reputation and underscored the importance of integrity.
"We always value character," Brandon said. "It goes into the overall operation of our draft and everything we do here when we're evaluating a player."
Brandon's comments compelled Douglas to issue a statement Thursday to ESPN.com and the Buffalo News:
"We find the organization's comments regarding the importance of character very interesting given their position on Fred Jackson. I think it's a fair statement to say that during his three years with the Bills, Fred has demonstrated his high character and that he is second to none in that department, to say nothing of his on-field contributions. Yet the organization is not making the concerted effort to lock in Fred as part of the team's long-term future. Public statements are great as long as you mean what you say."
The Bills declined to respond to Douglas' public volley.
All the Bills had to do to retain Jackson's rights was tender him a one-year offer for $460,000. That is a bargain for one of the NFL's best No. 2 running backs, but not a desirable deal for either Jackson or the Bills.
If he were to sign his tender, he would be playing for a pittance. But he also would become a restricted free agent in 2010, and the Bills could lose him.
Jackson understandably wants a long-term deal. He's already 28 years old, having meandered to the NFL from Division III Coe College to the National Indoor Football League to NFL Europa to the Bills' practice squad.
Jackson last year ran for 571 yards and three touchdowns and caught 37 passes for 317 yards. In the season finale against the New England Patriots, he started and ran 27 times for 136 yards.
His value has increased because of Lynch's off-field troubles. Unless NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reduces the suspension on appeal, Lynch will miss Buffalo's first three games.
Jackson likely is looking for a deal that puts him in line with other No. 2 backs. Other deals for top backup running backs go for about four years and $2.5 million.
The Bills interviewed Fred Taylor and Kevin Jones about joining the backfield but they signed with other teams. Taylor joined the New England Patriots for two years and $5 million. Jones went to the Chicago Bears for two years and $3.5 million.
Other comparables could be Julius Jones (four years, $11.8 million signed in March), Correll Buckhalter (four years, $10 million signed in February), J.J. Arrington (four years, $10 million signed in February) and Chester Taylor (four years, $14.1 million signed in 2006).