Updates from Tuesday, Mar. 11
The Saints officially announced that they've signed Byrd to a six-year deal:
Adam Schefter of ESPN has the latest on Jairus Byrd's free agency
Bills free-agent S Jairus Byrd is on his way to New Orleans to visit the Saints, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2014
All-Pro safety Jairus Byrd is set to hit free agency, and he will have no shortage of options on the open market.
The Buffalo Bills franchised Byrd last season, but they declined to do so again, according to NFL on ESPN:
THIS JUST IN: Bills announce they have chosen not to use franchise player tag on 3-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 3, 2014
Because of that, Byrd will be free to sign with any team once free agency begins on March 11. Many are questioning why the Bills didn't protect their asset by tagging him but general manager Doug Whaley feels as though it could aid in negotiations moving forward, per John Kryk of the Toronto Sun.
I think it just sets up a more amicable negotiation, because last year-- I wouldn't say it was contentious, but as a player you always want to go out and see your true value, and we restricted that. So this year we said, 'For the betterment of the Buffalo Bills, and to show you more or less good faith, we're not going to use that option to restrict you from hitting the market. Let's try to go full bore, with both of us focused on trying to get a deal done.'
As unlikely as Byrd re-signing with Buffalo may seem based on the fact that the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement over the past two seasons, it isn't necessarily a lost cause.
According to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, Byrd said that he is still willing to hold talks with the Bills.
The door is not closed on anything. I'm not closing the door on any opportunities at all. The lines of communication are still open. I've talked to (CEO) Russ (Brandon) and Doug (Whaley) a couple days ago. We're talking ... So it's not anything that's hard feelings or anything like that. The conversations that we've had, we know what's going on. We're all on the same page. We'll go from here.
Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei is reporting that Byrd is asking for more than $9 million per year. Although Buffalo presumably hasn't met that asking price, it offered a deal that would have made him the league's highest paid safety, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
Bills made Jairus Byrd an offer that would’ve made him highest paid S for a portion of his deal. Was rejected. Team still wants to sign him— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 2, 2014
Since deciding against tagging Byrd, the Bills have re-signed another safety in the form of Aaron Williams, per Rapoport:
The 4-year extension for #Bills S Aaron Williams is worth $26M, per source. It can be worth up to $27.25M over the course of the deal.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 5, 2014
Rather than pouting about the situation, Byrd congratulated his teammate on Twitter:
Byrd has seemingly said all the right things in the media in recent days, so it will be interesting to see how negotiations with the Bills play out.
Which team will Jairus Byrd sign with this offseason?
If Byrd and the Bills can't reach a deal, then Byrd should still have a bevy of options. It isn't yet known which teams will pursue him most vigorously, but Peter King of Sports Illustrated's MMQB has a team in mind.
According to King, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be a great fit, especially since Byrd's father, Gill Byrd, is Tampa's defensive backs coach.
The Bucs already have a lot of money invested in safety Dashon Goldson but an argument can be made that Byrd is the best ball hawk in football. Byrd has accumulated 22 career interceptions, and he has made the Pro Bowl thrice in five NFL seasons.
At just 27 years of age, the University of Oregon product is firmly in his prime. As difficult as it may be to believe, Byrd's best years could still be ahead of him.
The Cleveland Browns are another team that could potentially be in the running, according to CBS Sports' Nathan Zegura:
Could be Browns bound. RT @AdamSchefter: Bills announced they are not tagging S Jairus Byrd.— Nathan Zegura (@NathanZegura) March 3, 2014
Like the Bills, the Browns are in a tough situation with safety T.J. Ward. They opted not to place the franchise tag on him, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, but negotiations are still ongoing.
Byrd to Cleveland makes sense due to the fact that new Browns head coach Mike Pettine was Byrd's defensive coordinator last season in Buffalo.
Ultimately, Byrd has to be happy that he has been given the opportunity to test the market. He is going to get a huge contract from someone, and it may very well be the Bills when all is said and done.
Buffalo would be wise to continue pursuing Byrd since it can't afford to continue the seemingly endless cycle of letting quality players walk only to draft their replacements.
The Bills need to make a big move in order to show that they intend to end the NFL's longest playoff drought and re-signing Byrd would go a long way toward that.
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