- Written by Paul -
As the deadline rapidly approaches for the Buffalo Bills to decide whether or not to apply the franchise tag on three-time All-Pro free safety Jairus Byrd for the second consecutive year — a decision which will likely rest on whether the team and Byrd can agree to terms on a long-term contract before Monday – Bills fans, the front office, and probably Byrd himself hold out hope that the franchise player designation will be avoided and that he will instead sign a deal that keeps him in Buffalo for the foreseeable future.
Counter-intuitively, however, a second franchise tag may be the best thing when it comes to the interests of Jairus Byrd.
Why? One word: money. For the sake of argument, let’s say that Byrd gets franchised again this year, then signs a long-term deal with a team (Buffalo or otherwise) next season.
And for the sake of simplicity (and ease of comparison), let’s say that Byrd signs the exact same salary as the player he is most frequently compared to: San Diego Chargers four-time All-Pro free safety Eric Weddle. (In reality of course, Byrd will get more because free agent salaries steeply inflate from one year to the next.)
In July 2011, Weddle signed a contract worth $40 million over five years, with $19 million guaranteed. If Byrd plays on the franchise tag this year, he will earn $8.3 million, which would be fully guaranteed. Add that to the $6.9 million he was guaranteed for the 2013 season, and that means he will have pocketed $15.2 million over two seasons.
What happens next? Byrd plays to his usual level in 2014, the season ends, and he strikes it rich in free agency, getting a five-year, $40 million contract with $19 million in guaranteed money (again, yes – we know he would get more). What does that mean for his bottom line compared to Weddle’s? In essence, Byrd will have signed seven years’ worth of deals totaling $55.2 million, with a whopping $34.2 million of that being guaranteed money. That is about the maximum return a player at his position could possibly hope to make during the prime of his career in this day and age.
This hypothesis makes three key assumptions: that Byrd does maintain his high level of play in 2014, that the teams most willing to pay for his services in 2015 and beyond have the salary cap space available to sign him, and most importantly, that Byrd does not suffer any serious or long-term injury. From Byrd’s perspective, this is by far the biggest risk. If he signs the franchise tender and gets hurt, he may never see his big payday.
That said, he’ll still have made $15.2 million in 2013 and 2014, not to mention the $4.2 million from his four-year rookie contract (plus any bonuses he has earned during that time), so he would not exactly be hurting in terms of lifelong financial security.
But if he is willing to bet on 2014 being a healthy and productive season, then Byrd should not be in too much of a hurry to sign his name on the dotted line of any contract extension.