Bills' Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd considering holdout
Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd was one of those players ready to use free agency to capitalize financially on his sensational play over the past several seasons. He is arguably the best free safety in the league, and wrapped up his rookie contract at the conclusion of the 2012 campaign. However, he could not come to terms with the Bills, and as what the organization considered a "last resort," Byrd received the franchise tag.
Once he signs his franchise tender, Byrd will essentially be under a one-year, $6.916 million contract. His salary would be the fourth highest in the league this season, behind only Troy Polamalu, Eric Berry, and Antrel Rolle. While it appears that Byrd is getting a fair deal in receiving a top-4 safety salary in 2013, that is only desirable from a short-term perspective. What Byrd wants is a long-term deal with a good amount of guaranteed money. If Byrd were to suffer a serious injury while playing under his one-year franchise tender, that could seriously affect him financially when he is a free agent next spring.
Due to his concerns of playing under a one-year contract, Byrd has not yet signed his franchise tender and has been relentlessly trying to reach a long-term agreement with the Bills. Unfortunately, it appears unlikely that the two sides hammer out an agreement before the July 15 deadline, and as ESPN's John Clayton reported on Monday, Byrd "might hold out."
Byrd's threat of a holdout comes at a particularly bad time, as the Bills' coaching staff was completely overhauled during the offseason. Byrd did not attend OTAs or minicamp, and will be a step behind in learning new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's defense whenever he decides to show up to practice.
The idea of a sign-and-trade involving Byrd was mentioned in a fan Q&A on the Bills' official website. Usually, a Q&A wouldn't be a reliable source of information, but the fact that it was on the Bills' website makes it worth noting. Writer Chris Brown suggested that the Bills could be open to signing Byrd to the contract he desires, and shipping him out for a "proven starting guard." The Bills' haul in this hypothetical scenario would also likely include a high draft pick.
Byrd is not a household name just yet, but he is one of the more underrated players in the league. The 26-year-old has racked up 18 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries in four NFL seasons. He's a great defensive playmaker, and the Bills need to find a way to lock him up and have him on the field this season. The situation looks like it could be about to get pretty messy, and it is certainly a situation to monitor as the season grows closer.