The Bills still intend on signing Jairus Byrd to a long-term deal, according to Ian Rapaport of the NFL Network (via Twitter). However, if a contract cannot be reached, Rapaport reports that the team plans to franchise their star safety.
Byrd played under the franchise tag this past season, after a tumultuous offseason where he expressed his unhappiness at failing to secure the long-term deal.
It shouldn’t be thought of as a given that Byrd will be franchised, as the Bills are still trying to come to terms with the leader of their defense. His cap number if franchised would be close to $8.3MM, which raises the question of whether the team could afford to use the tag on him again. It has been reported from early on this offseason that the team would rather sign him without having to designate him with the franchise tag.
The only reason to use the franchise tag is to guarantee that he does not reach the open market, where he would certainly draw interest as one of the biggest free agents available. He could garner attention from quite a few teams with cap space, and here at Pro Football Rumors we have already examined the possibility of him as a target for teams such as the Eagles and Falcons, or reuniting with his defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, now head coach of the Browns.