Arguably the best ball-hawking free safety in the NFL, the 26-year-old wants to be paid accordingly. Unfortunately for both him and the Bills, the deadline to reach a long-term deal has passed. The result is a messy holdout which shows no signs of a quick resolution.
As quoted by Mike Rodak of ESPN, the two-time All Pro safety hasn’t reported to training camp and head coach Doug Marrone is extremely understanding of the circumstances:
We understand with the collective bargaining agreement that he has the ability to not be here right now, and we respect that. We really do. We respect him as a player and as a human being. Hopefully he comes in, and when he does, we'll welcome him with open arms. But at this time, he's exercising his right, and we respect that.
As Buffalo’s new head coach, Marrone probably doesn’t want to ruffle any feathers, especially if that entails widening the gap between his team and one of its best players. In that sense, the Bills are making a wise decision in supporting Byrd and his wishes to remain away from the team.
The Bills should have given Byrd a new contract this offseason, and it’s hard to find a fan or analyst who won’t agree with that sentiment. As well as they’re handling the current situation, it never should have gotten to this point.
But Byrd also has to realize that every team has to be concerned with its long-term sustainability and financial flexibility. Buffalo has a young roster with a lot of talent, but it also boasts some high-paid veterans like Mario Williams who are eating up a sizable chunk of cap space.
And as is the case with many recent contract disputes (a la Mike Wallace last offseason), Byrd has little leverage. He has been offered a very favorable contract and should be willing to accept it, even if that means playing this season for $6.92 million at the franchise tender rate.
It’s understandable that Byrd would want the security of a long-term contract, but that time has passed. His only options now involve either reporting to camp and playing this season or holding out and missing out on nearly $7 million and a chance to earn a new deal.
Someone is going to pay Byrd next offseason. If he wants that team to be the Bills, he should honor his contract and show the team he is worth a massive long-term deal going forward.
Buffalo has made its mistakes to this point. General manager Doug Whaley could have met Byrd a little closer to the middle. He could have conceded just a little more.
But it’s obvious the Bills want to keep him in the picture long-term, and Byrd should have faith in the team that has shown so much faith in him. The only smart way to end this situation is for Byrd to report to camp and hope Buffalo will make good on its efforts to retain him following this season.