11:47am: Ian Rapoport of NFL.com confirms (via Twitter) the portion of the earlier report that the Bills are unlikely to put the franchise tag on Byrd. He further tweets that the long-term deal that Byrd rejected would have made him the highest-paid safety in the league for a portion of the contract. However, Rapoport also tweeted that the Bills still want to re-sign their star safety, and that a deal could still be reached before free agency opens on March 11 (Twitter link). As Rapoport stated, “stay tuned.”
10:56am: Citing an unnamed source, Jeremy White of WGR 550 Sports Radio says the Bills are unlikely to retain free agent safety Jairus Byrd. White says it is unlikely the team will use the franchise tag on Byrd before tomorrow’s 4 p.m. deadline, and it is also unlikely the two sides will reach a long-term agreement before that time.
Of course, just because a player and a team do not reach a long-term deal before the deadline to use the franchise tag does not mean they cannot reach an agreement on a later date. However, Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 tweets that the Bills made a “substantial” effort to sign Byrd to a multiyear contract, and he also tweets that the team explored trades involving Byrd. The tone of those tweets and of White’s report suggests that Byrd will not, in fact, be back with the team. In a separate piece, Buscaglia confirmed this notion, saying that the two sides appear to be headed for a “parting of the ways.”
This news comes as quite a surprise, given that it was reported just over a week ago that the Bills planned to keep Byrd, and that if a long-term agreement could not be reached, the team would use the franchise tag on him. Earlier today, we read that the Bills have at least $25MM in space for 2014, which would make either option eminently feasible. The Eagles, Browns, and Falcons have all been named as potential landing spots for Byrd, who would be the best safety available in free agency.