Bills Safety Jairus Byrd Would Be Smart to Report to Training Camp
Byrd wanted to receive a long-term contract that would have made him the highest paid safety in the NFL, a deal that would have made sense given the defender's stellar play in 2012. The Bills, however, placed the franchise tag on the safety and have decided to adopt a wait-and-see policy with the defensive back.
In 2012, Byrd was phenomenal. A second team All-Pro safety, the Bill was the second-best player (behind the Chargers' Eric Weddle) at his position last season according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
When delving deeper into Pro Football Focus' data, we find that Byrd was the third-best safety in 2011 and, of 85 players considered, Byrd still managed to crack the Top 20 in 2010. It appears that the young defensive back is trending in the right direction and that 2013 should yield even more good things.
If it was possible for the Bills to sign Byrd to a long-term contract right now, I'd be a major proponent of such a deal. That said, the deadline for signing long-term extensions with franchise tag players has since passed. The only options for Byrd now are to either sign his tender and get paid a cool $6.9 million or hold out and wait for a payday that theoretically can't come until 2013.
Should the safety be looking for established precedent on the matter, consider the path that Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson took to getting a long-term contract. Goldson received the franchise tag after the 2011 season and turned in a stellar campaign for a 49ers team that made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Pro Football Focus' data had Goldson as the league's 20th-best safety last season, which is a respectable distinction but far from the high honors Byrd received.
After playing a year under the franchise tag and having measured success, Goldson tested free agency and got a five-year, $41.25 million deal from the Buccaneers.
Jairus Byrd is the player everybody thinks Earl Thomas is - the game's best single-high FS— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 25, 2013
Byrd isn't getting anywhere by pouting over the franchise tag. The $6.9 million is a nice chunk of change for any safety (he'll still be the highest-paid player on his own team) and, while Byrd is justified in his request for a long-term deal, such a contract isn't possible at this juncture.
In 2013, the safety simply needs to play at the same high level of last season. If he does that, this contract situation will take care of itself.
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