Jairus Byrd was not tagged on the deadline day of the Franchise Tag. The Buffalo Bills were not able to work out an extension with Byrd and decided the franchise tag would be a waste. The Bills offered to make him the highest paid safety in the league, making $30 million for the first three years. But he wanted more and decided the market will give him Revis money. There is a chance he comes back, but that is less likely than Michael Bay winning an Oscar for Best Picture. But the Bills are not doomed, they have options, and here are some of them.
The Bills have guys at the safety position that can if need be come in and play. In the 2013 draft the Bills drafted Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks, both of which played very little in 2013 but could see a spike in playing time due to Byrd being gone. Duke Williams looks to be the leading candidate to replace Byrd in house, however the unknown factor is great.
Aaron Williams is the established starter and he was just given an extension of 4 years 26.5 million. Williams was a do-it-all guy as he played both safety positions, and corner. Williams did a great job covering as he recorded four interceptions (same as Byrd) and eleven passes defended. He also was good in run support with 82 tackles and a forced fumble. There was nothing he couldn’t do and he can step in to either the Free Safety or Strong Safety position. Maybe he can do both depending on how new DC Jim Schwartz decided to do things.
Free Agency and the Draft
If the Bills don’t like Meeks or Williams starting, Free Agency would be the first place to look at getting another guy. The top guy choice would be Louis Delmas as he is someone familiar with the Schwartz defense. He recently got released and his asking price might not be too steep. Another choice would be TJ Ward from the Browns. He may be in play if the Browns decide to pay money on Byrd instead of Ward. Ward would be a more expensive choice and most likely would end up somewhere else that has big cap room like the Raiders. Other than those two, the top choices would be Donte Whitner (which would be very ironic), Chris Clemons, and Brandon Meriweather (though he might knock himself out of the game).
The top Strong Safety prospects in the draft are Calvin Pryor and Deone Buchannon. Pryor is the top safety in this class and is less of a coverage guy and more of a run-stuffing Bob Sanders safety. Bills could get him by trading back (maybe convincing the Cowboys to trade up for Aaron Donald). Buchannon is a little bit bigger and a lit bit nastier than Pryor but lacks the coverage skills. He is a 2nd day pick and would be a great run support guy that can considered another man in the box. Telvin Smith (from the greatest college in the world) is another guy I will include although he is listed as a LB, he is 6’3 219 and plays more like a Strong Safety as he is always near the ball. This guy will be there for the 3rd round and maybe a guy to look at if the Bills ever try the 4-4-3 set.
For Free safety the top 3 choices are Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, Jimmie Ward and Terrance Brooks. Dix is the best of the bunch but played for Bama which means who knows how good he actually is. Jimmie Ward is the prototypical free safety and can be great in coverage plus should be a day 2 pick. Brooks is the wild card as he was only asked to play centerfield at FSU. He showed in the Combine he has the speed to play Free Safety and can give support to the corners. All the Free Safety choices really don’t impress me.
In conclusion, Byrd decided that money was his #1 goal. Now some team will give him vast amounts of wealth and make him happy but that team will not be the Bills. However for the Bills it is not the end of the world, in fact, they are better off as that money spend on Byrd can be used for key contributors that will not holdout for a bigger payday.