COMMENTARY | Well, July 15 has passed and we know three things on the Jairus Byrd front: He did not agree to a multi-year deal with the Buffalo Bills. He did not sign his franchise tag. He is now forced to play under a one-year deal in 2013.
Unless he decides to hold out into the regular season. That's always an option, a foolish and rather costly option. But an option nonetheless.
Over the past few weeks, I fielded a slew of questions on Twitter about what I thought would ultimately happen with Byrd and the Bills, and frankly, I had plenty of questions myself.
As the multi-year deadline approached, the frequency of questions increased, and a week-long vacation spent in the Adirondack Mountains provided me ample time to ponder the confusing situation.
Here's the deal, or, more appropriately put, what makes the most sense to me.
Byrd is one of the finest safeties in the NFL. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. To some, he's the finest.
He went from a relatively unknown second-round pick, someone who primarily played cornerback at Oregon and morphed into a run-stuffing, turnover-creating, Gold Glove centerfielder. Byrd's made his mark thanks to lightning quick reaction, an underrated amount of on-field ferocity and adequate athleticism, a trio of enviable defensive back traits probably obtained hereditarily from his father, Gill Byrd, a former Pro Bowl corner.
Add all that to the fact that he's been playing on a cheap rookie deal for the past four seasons, and it's easy to understand; Byrd deserves a contract that pays like him like what he is; the cream of the safety crop.
However, just because a player deserves a lucrative contract, doesn't mean he'll get one--the NFL is a harsh business.
This offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed safety Dashon Goldson to a five-year, $41.25 million contract with $22 million guaranteed.
Leaving as much speculation behind as possible, it's pretty safe to assume that Byrd and his notoriously unwavering agent Eugene Parker were looking for a contract that, at the very least, met the average annual salary, guaranteed dollars and overall worth of Goldson's deal.
So...around $9 million per season and upwards of $25 million guaranteed for a safety?
Due to the NFL's pass happiness, it's not crazy to believe safeties are actually growing in importance, a trend that would lend credence to the idea they should be paid handsomely.
While a complete safety isn't easily replaceable, I just can't buy into one being worth nearly $10 million per year in base salary.
Think about it this way, everyone can agree that Byrd was tremendous in 2012, right? He amassed 76 total tackles, forced four fumbles, knocked away six passes and picked off five others.
Doesn't get much more individually impactful than that for a safety.
During Byrd's majorly productive season, the Buffalo Bills defense allowed the most touchdowns per drive in the league, the fourth-most points per drive and only six teams surrendered more yards per drive, according to Football Outsiders.
Obviously, it's possible for any player at any position to have an incredible individual season that ultimately doesn't correlate to his team's W-L record.
But is it easier for a safety to have that type of year than, say, a pass-rusher?
A pretty general theory, I know, but a theory I really believe carries weight, one which should be considered when trying to peg how much money any safety should receive.
More specifically, Byrd played 1,047 snaps in 2012. Of those snaps, he was "thrown at" 21 times, according to ProFootballFocus. On those 21 "targets," he actually allowed 16 receptions, which equated to a catch percentage of 76.2, the sixth-highest catch percentage of all safeties who played at least 25 percent of their respective team's snaps.
Byrd's QB rating allowed of 56.9 was one of the lowest in the league among safeties-thanks to those interceptions-yet his catch percentage was far from elite.
Basically, he deserved to paid as one of the best safeties in the NFL, yet I wouldn't label him as an absolute game-changing safety like Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu were in their primes.
Had the Bills given Byrd a deal that slightly exceeded Goldson's, I would have been OK with it.
But in the end, it just didn't seem like the most shrewd way for the Doug Whaley era to begin--by signing a safety to an enormous deal--although money was undoubtedly available.
(Let's try to give this Whaley guy a chance before we crucify him either way.)
(Also, I'm a huge proponent of Mike Pettine, and his defensive scheme. He and Rex Ryan fielded fine defenses on a yearly basis without outstanding individual safeties.)
But now, the story shifts away from whether or not the Bills should've given in to Byrd and Parker's contractual demands, because Byrd must play under a one-year deal in 2013.
Parker did Byrd a disservice in all of this, really. His client, at the top of his game, could have had job/financial security for close to five years--at likely around $8.5 million per year. Instead, Byrd will play at slightly under $7 million this season, then the arduous process starts all over again.
Repeating or improving upon a season with 76 tackles, six defended passes, five interceptions and four forced fumbles won't be a walk in the park.
There's a good chance Byrd's as enticing now as he'll ever be.
Strike while the iron is hot, right?
While I suspect that the Bills coaching staff would be worried if he shows up only a few days prior to the Week 1 showdown with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, he doesn't have much leverage left, if any at all.
Unless he simply wants to skip camp for the extra time off, at this point, Byrd should sign the tag and get to work in what will be another contract year.
Then again, I'm no NFL agent. I just don't understand how Parker advising Byrd not to sign his tag at this juncture makes any sense. He's locked in. And not being on the practice field can only hurt his chances to obtain the monster deal Parker's looking for in the first place.
In the end, everyone's at fault to a certain degree.
The Bills should have extended Byrd earlier, when he was producing, and his potential was noticeable. Parker should have placed his bravado aside and gotten his client top safety money after his excellent season.
Regardless of which side you were on, the Jairus Byrd franchise tag saga is, thankfully, over now. Well, until it starts again after the 2013 season.
Chris Trapasso is a sportswriter who lives in Western New York and has been covering the Buffalo Bills and the NFL since 2009 for Bleacher Report.
For Bills and other NFL news, follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisTrapasso
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