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Jerry Hughes, Buffalo Bills contract talks heating up

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The Buffalo Bills are working to ensure that one of this year's top free agents never reaches the open market.

General manager Doug Whaley said Thursday that negotiations are heating up between the Bills and defensive end Jerry Hughes' representatives.

Although the sides have been exchanging proposals over the past 24 hours, The Buffalo News reported that a deal is not yet close.

Intent on avoiding the franchise tag, Whaley acknowledged that the organization is willing to pay market value to retain one of the league's most consistent pass rushers over the past two years.

"We can afford to invest in that defensive line because we don't have a large part of our salary cap eaten up by a marquee quarterback," Whaley explained. "So that affords us the ability to be able to try to keep a Jerry Hughes and pay him what he's worth. The way we have to play we're going to have to have a strong defense and get after the quarterback and run the ball."

Hughes has made it clear that he won't give the Bills a hometown discount even if his preference is to remain in Buffalo.

Look for an agreement to develop before March 10, as new coach Rex Ryan is an unabashed Hughes enthusiast.

"I think Jerry is an outstanding player," Ryan said last month. "The last two years I've been against him and he's tremendous. ... I hope he's a Buffalo Bill for a long time.

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