The Bills do a lot of things that aren’t smart. Paying Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t smart, and not giving C.J. Spiller the damn ball wasn’t smart.
But taking the necessary steps to retain Jairus Byrd — the best available free agent safety — is quite smart. In fact, some may call it a demonstration of common sense. So all the high fives for you, Bills.
As first reported by Adam Schefter, the Bills will use their franchise tag on Byrd, and it’ll cost them $6.9 million in the form of a one year, fully guaranteed contract. It’s a financial hit that can easily be absorbed with the Bills’ estimated $23 million in cap space.
Tagging Byrd is one of the easiest decisions leading up to Monday’s deadline to use franchise tags, as the tag for safeties is affordable, and it buys the Bills more time to negotiate a long-term deal. Byrd would have been a highly pursued free agent during a time when passing is still peaking, and teams are therefore eager to add ball hawking safeties who are efficient in coverage, and can easily separate receiver from ball. Byrd is both of those things after a year when he intercepted five passes, and his career high is nine picks during his rookie season after being a second-round pick by the Bills in 2009.
Schefter also reported that although it isn’t official yet, the Bengals will use their franchise tag on defensive end Michael Johnson, which comes at a more painful $11.18 million. Johnson was one half of a formidable front four tandem for Cincinnati in 2012 alongside Geno Atkins, recording 11.5 of their 51 sacks. During an era when quarterback pressure is paramount and the price of a free agent pass rusher is therefore rising, retaining your own talent is vital while other DE-needy teams hope for draft picks to blossom quickly.
Here’s lookin’ at you, Falcons.