Nothing Different About Change

My 2014 Bills monthly wall calendar features Mark Anderson and not Kiko Alonso. It doesn’t take long for turnover to become noticeable. Coping with turmoil is part of assembling a roster, as there’s no way to ensure any random 12 players will still be team property a year from today.

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Re-signing Jairus Byrd would show that the Bills are committed to keeping their best players. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The fleeting nature of careers and limitations on compensation help make the offseason so fascinating. We don’t even have to try to make it that way. But the best front offices know when to suck it up and spend a fortune on retaining an invaluable player. With reports of philosophical differences in Orchard Park, the team has a chance to set things straight by boldly committing to its best players. Change may be inevitable, but it’s often wisely postponed.

The only present football activity involves watching the NFL combine with a stopwatch to see if the official 40-yard dash times match your unofficial results. That leaves plenty of time to remember that football is a business. The cost analysis behind asking if any player is worth the price involves a simple question that can be difficult to answer. But Buffalo needs to maintain continuity in what it already does well if it hopes to get better. Otherwise, the old guard will keep getting its way, which apparently entails avoiding the stress associated with playoff games.

Keeping a veteran around would show that the Bills are taking a new approach.  It’s time to settle the eternal Jairus Byrd debate by signing him for the long haul. They’re again approaching the equivalent of the two-minute warning on negotiations with someone who can help them align in the victory formation. They may not actually be making personnel decisions by internet vote, but a team trying to prove it’s not stuck in old patterns should be paying attention to how well fans respond to dynamic athletes.

Playoff contenders don’t act like they can maintain any aspect’s performance by plugging in whoever else is next on the depth chart. While there are certainly other talented safeties on the roster, Byrd remains first in the secondary. A good player is different from someone who’s capable of regularly changing games as Byrd has.

This team can’t complain about the challenges of a perpetual rebuild if they’re unwilling to pay for retaining established stars. Letting Byrd fly would help them remain around six wins at a moment when they should be giving him help. Based on the difficulty of prominent free agents adjusting to new teams, losing him could be as bad for the player as for the Bills. They should both appreciate what they have.

A franchise tag is like a pre-nuptial agreement: you’re admitting to trouble even before the start. Forcing someone to play in writing is already a loss. The only thing worse than Byrd feeling disgruntled for another season would be tagging and then trading him, as that would be a sign that the alleged rebuild has just begun. Management will essentially be announcing if things are really changing after about a decade and a half, or if existing is enough.

Frugality’s appeal has its limits. Buffalo must decide that some investments are worth the financial setback. Retaining the assets they already possess isn’t as costly as radio-only December home games.

While a fluctuating roster is part of football’s nature, the calendar dudes would like their product to remain up-to-date. They’re not the only ones. If Byrd gets his own month in 2015, it would be nice to look forward to seeing him in the same uniform for years rather than ruing the days when he was one of our guys. In his case, fans would settle for semi-permanence.

About Anthony Bialy

Anthony Bialy recently moved back to Buffalo from New York City and acts like he never left. He thinks "Buffalo 66" is biographical and considers it a crime against mankind that Steve Tasker is not in the Hall of Fame. He likes getting Tim Hortons on the way to get Labatt Blue. Follow him on Twitter at @AnthonyBialy.