The saga surrounding Jairus Byrd went from a frustrating, stagnant stalemate to a quickly decaying cycle of bad faith that is pointing towards divorce.
When Andy Levitre left for a hefty contract in Tennessee, it was generally assumed that the money saved by not signing Levitre would be allocated towards Byrd’s new long-term deal. However the summer dragged on without any progress made and Byrd eventually sat out all of training camp due to the impasse.
Now there are rumors circulating that Byrd and his agent are attempting to work out a trade for the Pro Bowl safety as it appears his relationship with the Bills organization has become severely damaged. Both sides can take credit for fouling up the entire situation as the Bills likely stood pat on their salary offer which was obviously well below what Byrd and his representation have demanded.
The problem for the Bills is that it paints a picture of an organization that continues to play hardball with their draft picks – with the Eric Wood signing obviously showing excellent faith in a player – which doesn’t necessarily reflect in an ideal light when it comes to the way players are being treated. Obviously contracts like Wood’s, McKelvin’s and others that have recently been offered indicate that the team will reward solid play. However, the actions on both sides have likely pushed this relationship to a breaking point.
In this case that appears to mean a trade.
What’s interesting about this development is the murky trade market in the NFL. Rarely is there a flurry of trades in the NFL like what is seen in hockey or baseball. The few trades that are made on a yearly basis typically come at the draft and usually only involve picks. Player-for-player swaps like Buffalo’s trade for Jerry Hughes isn’t necessarily the norm and it would particularly be impressive to see Doug Whaley pull off another similar swap.
Perhaps the most difficult part of pulling off a trade for Byrd will be finding a team willing to give up proper return for the safety. Not only is he the most talented member of Buffalo’s secondary, but he’s one of the only Pro Bowlers the team has had recently. Byrd’s contributions are surpassed by very few on the entire 53-man roster on a week-to-week basis making him an incredibly valuable commodity for the Bills. I think it’s safe to say that his value to the Bills defense is commensurate of a first round pick. That isn’t to say that the Bills would require a first round pick for him, but him value to the Bills has to be in that neighborhood.
Despite his outstanding talent and impressive resume, safety just isn’t a position that you’d use a massive investment (like a first round pick) on in a trade scenario. When you consider that Vontae Davis went for a second round pick, it seems safe to assume that the bar won’t be set much higher for Byrd in this case.
The Bills certainly can’t accept a third or a fourth round pick for someone who brings as much to the table as Byrd does and I’d assume that only a player-for-player swap or a second round pick would be the only return Buffalo would consider for Byrd.
If there was a way to find a dance partner willing to deal a capable NFL cornerback (or perhaps even a quality offensive lineman) I’d be willing to see the Bills part ways with their disgruntled star. The need is certainly there for the Bills are corner. Of course shipping off their best safety for a replacement at corner (or guard) would be little more than mortgaging their future at one position for a quick fix at another.
Corner is probably the position which would most benefit the Bills in both the short and long term. A capable NFL cornerback wouldn’t just plug the hole left by Stephon Gilmore, but it would provide a partner for the second year cover man once he returns from injury. Whether or not that is a feasible option for the Bills in this case is yet to be seen, of course.
Ultimately the argument falls to letting a player walk for nothing or receiving something in return prior to his departure. At this point I’d say the most appealing offer for Byrd would be one for a player capable of contributing immediately with the minimum acceptable return being a second round pick.
Considering how badly things have soured between Byrd and the Bills, obtaining a current NFL player in exchange for him – especially at a position of need – would produce a small silver lining in this whole messy circus.