On July 15th, there were seven franchised players that had yet to sign either their one year tender or a new long term contract. Since that negotiation deadline passed, all but one franchised player has signed their tenure. That one player just so happens to be Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd; and though training camp has taken some of the attention away from his absence, the Bills are still missing possibly their best defensive player.
In fact, at this time there is not a single player in all the NFL that is skipping out on training camp, hoping for a new contract, other than Byrd. What was once an annual ploy for players to get new contracts, and endless speculation by fans, it seems almost ignored by all. The ironic thing in all of this is there are only three scenarios that could play out.
The first: Byrd signs his one year contract, joins the team, and could potentially negotiate for a clause to prevent him from being franchised this coming offseason. This is the most likely option to play out, but the question of when Byrd signs is maddening to think about for fans. The second is that the Bills rescind the franchise tag and Byrd becomes a free agent — this will not happen. The third and final option is that the Bills find a trade partner and let Byrd fly the coup with a return on their end.
With only three options on the table, the rest of the franchised players took their money and ran, knowing that guaranteed money is better than no money. The most likely scenario is that Byrd will wait until the third preseason game and then report to the team in time to make the final roster and have enough time to prepare so he can put together another productive season.
If Byrd does take the described route above, it does not mean he will come in ready to go though. Previous players that have taken that route, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson and DeSean Jackson all had a tough time hitting their stride and make an impact on their team for the first five weeks of the season. Will holding out help Byrd avoid the nicks and scrapes that training camp can create and avoid the big season ending injury? Probably, but again in order for him to be at his best to cash in on the free agent market he needs to showcase his talents in the regular season, and the lack of camp could hinder his acclimation to a new defense and thus his market value.
The tale of current Seattle Seahawk Cliff Avril should be a cautionary tale for Byrd. Avril held out a week of training camp last year, signed his franchise tender for $10.6 million dollars with the Detroit Lions and though he has 9.5 sacks he could only muster a two year $15 million dollar deal on the open market.
When — not if — Byrd signs his deal, fans and coaches hope that the player from last year is the one reporting for duty. It takes more than stats to help Byrd get that next max contract. A positive demeanor and play on the field could boast a youthful team to a possible playoff berth and that could be a big negotiating chip in Byrd’s favor.