INDIANAPOLIS (WGR 550) -- The future of Jairus Byrd in regards to the Buffalo Bills could very well hang in the balance over some food and drinks on Saturday in Indianapolis.
Speaking at the NFL Combine to local reporters, general manager Doug Whaley revealed that the team has yet to speak with Byrd's representatives, but intend to do so in the coming days.
"We will have discussions this week with his camp," Whaley said. "But there has been conversations with his camp before we got here."
The Bills announced shortly after that the meeting would be happening on Saturday, and would also serve as a chance to discuss the future of fellow impending unrestricted free agent Alex Carrington. He is also represented by the same agent, Eugene Parker.
If the talks do not go well between the Bills and Parker about Byrd, then Buffalo's likeliest course of action would be to franchise tag the safety for the second consecutive year. This time around, however, it would be in an effort to not let Byrd walk out the door of One Bills Drive without any compensation for a player that is considered to be one of the best at his position.
"In that situation, you're going to use every option open. We don't want to put ourselves in a corner, and I don't want to say to you guys, 'We're going to do this,' and then something changes and we don't something different," Whaley said regarding the franchise tag. "We as an organization, again, we're going to leave every option open for Jairus because we would like him back."
If Byrd leaves the Bills it wouldn't be due to a lack of effort from Buffalo's end. They have repeatedly said they would put an offer on the table to Byrd in an effort to sign him to a long-term contract. Head coach Doug Marrone fawned over Byrd and how he was as a teammate despite the rather acrimonious start to the 2013 season between the front office and the player.
"After the season was over, my evaluation, I told [Jairus] what I was gonna go to management with," the head coach said. "I told Jairus, I have nothing but great things to say. I have nothing but great things to recommend. And then now, that goes to Doug Whaley and then it goes to management and then they try to come up with something and try to see what's best for both parties. But, I love him. I really do. He did an outstanding job for us."
If things go poorly, the Bills would have the option to tag Byrd, keep him for another season and pay him a guaranteed salary of $8.299 million. However, that would merely further alienate him and the Bills would ultimately lose him after the 2014 season for nothing. Non-quarterbacks cannot be tagged three years in a row, according to the National Football League Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Likely not to be the only team to show interest in Byrd, the Cleveland Browns and head coach Mike Pettine have very "real" interest in acquiring the safety, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapaport. Pettine served as the Bills defensive coordinator in the 2013 season, and has shown a track record of bringing a safety along with him to help teach his defense to a new team.
As a member of the Jets, Pettine and head coach Rex Ryan brought safety Jim Leonhard over to New York from Baltimore after the safety started several games on their defense for the Ravens. When he arrived to Buffalo, Pettine once again reached out to Leonhard and the Bills signed him to a one-year deal.
The proceedings will be on hold until Saturday at the earliest, because the Bills will have to gauge what Byrd and Parker perceives the safety's value to be.
"We're gonna try to go after all our free agents that we have out there," Whaley said when asked aboout how they'll fill their voluminous cap space. "That all depends on what they perceive their value is compared to us and we have a priority list, and we'll go down that priority list."
The latter portion of that quote proves, among other things, that Saturday's meeting with Parker is paramount to what will inevitably happen between the two sides. The Bills have until March 3 to assign the franchise tag.