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Posted: Thursday, 06 March 2014 10:20AM

Williams deal likely seals Byrd's fate with Bills



(WGR 550) -- Although they won't say it publicly, the Buffalo Bills will likely be moving on from safety Jairus Byrd. 

Over a year has passed and the Bills have yet to strike a deal with Byrd, and instead focused on a player they knew wanted to be with the team for the long haul at, in their opinion, an affordable salary. Just two days after GM Doug Whaley discussed not issuing the franchise tag to Byrd once again, the Bills announced they had reached a contract extension with fourth-year player Aaron Williams.

Upon hearing that news and seeing the four-year, $26 million extension Williams signed to stay with Buffalo, a popular refrain springs to mind when it comes to Jairus Byrd:

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye.

Byrd has been a tremendous player for the Bills over the course of the past five seasons and has really been a strength on a defense that has lacked playmakers over the entirety of his tenure. The Williams signing, though, essentially assures that Byrd will be playing elsewhere in 2014 and beyond.

There is a simple truth in the NFL when it comes to safeties: 

Teams don't pay big money for a pair. Debate the merits of that line of thinking until you're blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is that it just isn't done in the NFL.

To be fair, safeties are of growing importance in today's version of the league and eventually teams will get to that point. But like most things in the NFL, people are slow to change their ways to a more progressive approach.

"But what about the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks? They have two high priced safeties."

Don't be so quick to rush to that judgement. Earl Thomas is still playing on his rookie deal, and Chancellor's cap number is quite manageable over the 2013 and 2014 seasons. If you want to take it a step further, the duo of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas earned less in 2013 than Jairus Byrd did playing on his franchise tag.

In case you think you read that wrong, here it is again. The combined cap hit for the highly touted Super Bowl champion safety duo ($6,776,617) cost less than Byrd ($6,916,000) in 2013.

That isn't an anomaly, either. Look all throughout the league, the combined salary cap hits for starting safeties on a single team is quite low, and the numbers are there to prove it.

In 2013, the league-wide average for the cap hit of a set of starting safeties was $5,583,439.28. That's less than Byrd's 2013 cap number and less than the average salary of Williams' new deal with the Bills ($6.5 million per season).

Only 10 teams throughout the NFL saw their starting safeties have a higher cap hit than that figure of $6.5 million. And only 12.5-percent of teams -- four to be exact -- had the total cap hit of that starting duo reach over $10 million.

It would be completely shocking if the Bills were to march to the front of the line and pay around $14 million to a safety duo. That's not to say that they're cheap or anything of that nature, it's just not how business is done in league circles at that position.

Byrd is a fantastic player, but it's obvious that when he elected to move on and not accept the Bills' lucrative offer, they had a contingency plan in place to sign Aaron Williams for the long-term. You'd have to think that it's part of the reason the Bills did not issue the franchise tag to Byrd, knowing they could lock up Williams straight away. 

The opinions of Williams as a safety are high within the organization, and they believe he can turn into something special. With that logic, it's quite intelligent to lock him up before his contract year starts and potentially save some money.

There's a chance he may not live up to the deal, but in the NFL, contracts are more about projection rather than past production. By the time the season begins he'll only be 24. That fact, combined with his production in only one year of playing at the position, and it's easy to see that Williams projects quite well.

Not to mention he is a strong part of that locker room, team leader Fred Jackson has taken him under his wing and he truly loves being a part of the organization.

In the end, it was Byrd or Williams. When Byrd decided to test his worth on the open market, the decision was clear for Buffalo:

Sign the player that wants to be with the organization for the long-term and move on.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
Filed Under :  
Topics : Sports
Locations : Buffalo
People : Aaron WilliamsDoug WhaleyEarl ThomasFred Jackson
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