(WGR 550) -- Just hours after the NFL and NFLPA released the franchise and transition tag numbers for 2013, the Buffalo Bills became the first team in the National Football League to use one of the designations. The Bills officially announced that they have franchise tagged free safety Jairus Byrd.
With the tag, Byrd is guaranteed a one-year salary of $6.916 million, but both he and the Bills have until July 15 to negotiate and agree to a long-term contract. If the two sides do not come to an agreement by that date, Byrd can only sign a one-year deal with the team and will then go through the whole process again in 2014.
If the Bills do not come to a long-term agreement with Byrd, they can again use the franchise tag on him in 2014. Teams are only allowed to use the franchise tag on a non-quarterback for two straight years.
By designating Byrd as the franchise player, the Bills will guarantee that they won't lose him this off-season for nothing. If another team signs Byrd to an offer sheet and the Bills elect not to match, they will receive two first round picks from a team as compensation.
UPDATE: The Bills announced that Byrd will be of the non-exclusive franchise tag variety, giving teams the opportunity to sign him to an offer sheet if they so choose.
Since entering the league in 2009, Byrd has transitioned from a ball-hawking safety deep in coverage to an all-around player. In 57 starts, he has accrued 308 tackles, 18 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles and two sacks. Byrd has also made the Pro Bowl twice: his rookie season in 2009 and in 2012 as a replacement for Baltimore's Ed Reed.
The Bills would have had until March 4 to make the decision to franchise tag Byrd. They still have the option to use the transition tag on another impending unrestricted free agent. However, the transition tag numbers are only slightly lower than that of franchise tags, and provide no compensation if a team should sign that player to an offer sheet and the Bills elect not to match. It only provides Buffalo with the opportunity to match.
Left guard Andy Levitre, cornerback Leodis McKelvin, defensive end Kyle Moore and fullback Corey McIntyre are some of the notable Bills names that will become unrestricted free agents if they are not signed by March 12 at 4:00 pm.