All indications are that safety Jairus Byrd does not want to be with the Buffalo Bills this year. Byrd played under the franchise tag this past season or he probably would not have been there last year. Byrd has turned down an offer that was reported to include $30 million over the first three years. Reports have the Bills so dour on their situation with Byrd that they may ultimately pass on the option to use the franchise tag on Byrd again. The team has until 4pm today to make that decision, but if they do not, Byrd is a virtual lock to be with a different team next year and many are connecting the dots to Cleveland.
Byrd is obviously familiar with Browns head coach Mike Pettine from their time together in Buffalo and the Browns are in position to offer a ton of money to Byrd, who is expected to demand in excess of $10 million per season. Byrd would be a huge upgrade to the free safety position for the Browns and give them a ball hawk on the back end that could benefit from a great deal from pressure created up front like Byrd did in Buffalo.
Theoretically, the Browns could sign Byrd to a deal and use the franchise tag on T.J. Ward, which would pay him about $8.3 million this season to be their strong safety with the possibility of trying to keep Ward after the season or letting him walk. They have the cap room to do it, but it would obviously be a significant amount of their cap invested in the secondary, whether they keep Ward after this season or not.
Much will depend on how deals are structured but the average of a deal with Byrd and Joe Haden, who is negotiating an extension with the team, could average about $22-$25 million per season, which would represent a little under 20% of the Browns cap room as it currently stands at $134 million. That could be doable, but it all depends on how general manager Ray Farmer envisions planning the team’s finances for the future.
All of this sounds good in theory with the possibility of the Browns signing the 27-year old Byrd, but the part of this equation that remains an unknown is what Byrd actually wants in a new team. Clearly, he wants money but the Bills are offering him that and he does not want to stay with the Bills. If this is about stability or winning, the Browns are not terribly attractive. Should Byrd just want to move to a warmer climate, the Browns could be out of luck. As much as Byrd may like Pettine, Byrd reportedly wanted out of Buffalo last year, the one year he worked with Pettine. He may see Cleveland the same way he saw Buffalo and want no part of it aside from using it for leverage to get more money elsewhere.
Byrd could be a great player for the Browns if he can get away from the Bills, but so much depends on what Byrd actually wants in a team. The combination of Byrd, Haden and Ward, even if it is just for a year, could be fun to watch. Should the 4pm deadline pass, the talk of Byrd to the Browns will pick up quite a bit, whether it is warranted or not. Until it is clear what Byrd wants from a team, it is difficult to project where he will go and while there are dots that could link him to Cleveland, they could be the reasons he is trying to get out of Buffalo.
Tags: Cleveland Browns