According to a source familiar with what pending free agent Jairus Byrd requires from the Buffalo Bills to consider re-signing before free agency starts, his agent, Eugene Parker is seeking a deal paying his 27-year old three-time Pro Bowler client at least $45 million over five years, with no less than $20 million fully guaranteed.
Those terms would make Byrd the highest-paid safety in the NFL and from what I hear, there’s no chance of him re-signing prior to free agency for any less.
Tampa Bay signed premier 2013 free agent safety Dashon Goldson last March to a five-year deal worth $41.25 million that included $18 million guaranteed.
Parker unmistakably regards Byrd as more talented, and is looking to blow past the financials of Goldson’s agreement.
Other safeties roughly similar to Byrd’s age and talent level include Eric Weddle, Antrei Rolle and Michael Griffin. Their annual salaries presently stand at $8 million, $7.4 million and $7 million respectively. All signed five year deals.
Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu is actually the game’s current highest-paid safety, at an average of slightly over $9.1 million, but the 32-year old may be forced to take a pay cut from his $8.25 million salary to remain to remain with the Steelers going into the final year of his contract.
Of course, Byrd doesn’t presently control his own destiny when it comes to where he’ll play in 2014. Buffalo reserves the opportunity to place the franchise tag on him for a second consecutive year and if they did he’d earn around $8.3 million for next season.
The franchise tag period this year runs from February 17 to March 3.
Byrd made $6.916 million last year under the tag—and his actions in the months that followed demonstrated how displeased he was to receive it. Byrd skipped voluntary workouts, organized team activities, minicamp and all of training camp in Rochester before finally reporting to the club on August 21, just in advance of the club being able to fine him game checks.
When Byrd finally did report, he did so with plantar fasciitis, which kept him out of the lineup for the team’s first five games. In incredible testament to how favorably the league perceives him, Byrd still made the Pro Bowl for the third time in his five-year career.
Obviously, neither side would prefer to go the tag route again. It’s pretty much a lock Byrd would handle it exactly as he did last season. Having said that, it’s an avenue that gives the Bills time to continue working on a long-term deal or trade him instead of losing him for nothing.
It’s worth noting the Bills franchised wide receiver Peerless Price in 2003 and then traded him to Atlanta in exchange for a first-round pick.
Free agency begins on March 11.
If the Bills conclude Byrd is worth the NFL’s top safety salary, they surely have the cap space to get a deal done. The club currently stands a little over $21 million under the cap, and that number could easily reach over $26 million simply by cutting Erik Pears and Kevin Kolb; two players highly unlikely to be a part of the club’s future.
One thing is obvious from what I’m hearing—if the Bills want Byrd long-term they’ll fork over at least $45 million over the next five years, with at least close to half guaranteed. My understanding is he won’t sign for a penny less.
(Photo: Michael Thomas)