Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd did not report two weeks ago for voluntary team strength and conditioning drills — nor is he expected to attend a voluntary veteran minicamp this week.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday night that the Pro Bowl safety is refusing to sign his franchise tag — a guaranteed $6.916-million salary for 2013.
Early last month Byrd was one of eight pending NFL free agents who got franchise-tagged by his team. Only Byrd and Denver Broncos offensive tackle Ryan Clady have yet to sign their tags, according to Rapoport.
Byrd is unlikely to report for any of the Bills’ voluntary off-season activities over the next two months, Rapoport says, because Byrd wants a long-term contract extension.
The Bills already have held eight off-season conditioning sessions this month. In addition to this week’s three-day minicamp (Tuesday to Thursday), the Bills have 12 more off-season sessions scheduled through May 9.
As well, the team has voluntary team practice sessions (OTAs) scheduled on these days: May 13-14-15-20-21-23-28-29-30-31.
The club’s only mandatory off-season minicamp is June 11 to 13.
Where does this leave Byrd and the Bills? The collective bargaining agreement spells it all out.
First, the Bills cannot, and surely would not, hold anything against Byrd for missing these voluntary workouts. New head coach Doug Marrone and his defensive coaches surely would love to have their best defensive back in the building over the next two months, but as a safety, Byrd presumably can quickly make up any lost ground.
Secondly, because Byrd’s franchise tag is of the non-exclusive variety, he can still sign with another team. But because that team would owe the Bills two first-round draft picks, it’ll never happen. No NFL safety is worth that.
The Bills and Byrd have until July 15 to agree on a new multi-year contract. After that date, Byrd could sign only a one-year deal with the club. The two sides could not sign an extension until Monday Dec. 30 at the earliest — that is, the day following Buffalo’s last regular-season game.
Should Byrd opt to hold out beyond July 15, he would have until 4 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Nov. 12 — that is, the Tuesday following Week 10 — to sign his tag.
If not, Byrd would be barred from playing for any team in the 2013 season. And in that event, the Bills would retain Byrd’s rights and would be able to tag him again next March. If that tag again is of the non-exclusive variety, the compensation for any other team that might sign him would be lowered a smidge to one first-round and one third-round draft pick, rather than two first-rounders — still way too costly.
Back to the present day, though.
And for the Bills’ part, they do have the option to withdraw the franchise tag on Byrd “at any time,” according to the CBA. In that event, Byrd would immediately become an unrestricted free agent. Any team that would sign him would not owe the Bills anything by way of compensation.
Dashon Goldson, arguably the top unrestricted free-agent safety after Byrd got tagged, bolted the San Francisco 49ers last month for a $41.25-million, five-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s $8.25 million per year — more than a million bucks per year more than Byrd would earn in 2013 under this year’s set franchise-tag salary for safeties, per CBA calculations.
Got all that?
Bottom line, we’ll have a much better idea whether any of these extreme scenarios might come into play should Byrd not report on the first day of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, June 11.