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Posted: Monday, 17 February 2014 9:33AM

Bills have 2 weeks to franchise tag Byrd



(WGR 550) -- The draft is still a few months away, but regarding the Jairus Byrd situation, the Buffalo Bills are officially on the clock.

The National Football League institutes a two-week window for teams to declare their intentions with what they deem to be the impending unrestricted free agent with the highest priority. Opening Monday, the Bills and the rest of the teams in the NFL have until March 3 to assign the franchise tag to whomever they believe worthy.

For Buffalo, it could be a case of déjà vu with safety Jairus Byrd.

Tagged by the Bills for the 2013 season, the playmaking safety came away with five interceptions in just 11 games which helped him earn his second trip to the Pro Bowl. It proved once again that Byrd was one of the top players at his position, opening up the Bills to the idea of signing him for the longterm.

There's no doubting that the relationship between the organization and the player was a bit rocky to start the season. Byrd, fresh off delaying the signing of his tag until the last moment he could before the team could use a roster exemption on him, was very short in his words during his initial briefing with the media.

"Do I feel stuck here?" he said when asked that very question. "I'm just here. You know what I'm saying? I'm here, playing football."

Byrd signed his one-year tender for $6.916 million and, in what some contemplated to be a calculated move, sat out for the first five games of the season after dealing with a case of plantar fasciitis in both feet.

The safety grew fond of not only defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and how he concocted game plans, but also bonded with defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson. While the latter remains in his position, the former bolted for the head coaching gig in Cleveland, leaving Byrd to have his fifth new defensive coordinator in his first six years in the league if he inevitably hangs around Buffalo for another year.

Go right down the list.

Perry Fewell, George Edwards, Dave Wannstedt, Mike Pettine and now, if both he and the Bills choose to, Jim Schwartz.

Some will say that Byrd really doesn't have a choice, which to a certain extent is true. However, Byrd can choose not to do two separate things. He can choose not to sign a long-term deal, and he can choose to not sign the franchise tag tender if that's the path the Bills go down.

In their perfect world, Buffalo would love to get Byrd locked up for the long-term. He and his agent, Eugene Parker, might have some other things in mind though.

Bills GM Doug Whaley said after the season ended that they'll give it the 'ole college try.

"We’ve had a conversation, myself and Russ [Brandon], sat and talked to Jairus and we’re going to make an offer to the guy and we’re going to try to keep him. We’re going to try to the best of our abilities because we’re in the business of collecting good players and he’s a good player."

That importance could even be raised with the departure of Pettine and arrival of Schwartz. Pettine's defense brought pressure from everywhere, whereas Schwartz's defense focuses more on the front four wreaking havoc. With that in mind, the Bills could look at Byrd as an even high priority than he had been.

The two sides are expected to meet in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine, according to John Wawrow of the Associated Press, likely to determine if there is anything that can be done to get Byrd signed for the long-term.

If it appears all hope is lost on that front, the Bills can tag him and take on a cap hit of $8.299 million if Byrd elects to sign it before the season. Whaley said in December that the franchise tag is "always an option" in regards to the safety.

Tagging Byrd could also present the Bills with the most flexibility. They can continue attempting to negotiate with him through July 15, or if all else fails, they can deal him to another team during that timeframe.

For now, it's a waiting game until the two sides finally get together in the one-week hub of the NFL, Indianapolis.

WGR Sports Radio 550 will be on the scene all week long at the NFL Combine. Keep checking back for the latest.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
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