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Bills and Byrd: Contract information often misleading until all terms known

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A day before the franchise-tag deadline, reports claim the Buffalo Bills have offered to make Jairus Byrd the NFL's highest-paid safety.

Fans, as to be expected, feel jilted. How could Byrd turn down such a handsome offer?

I'm not going to pretend to know what the Bills offered Byrd, but I can tell you this:

Teams and agents can make a contract appear as sensational or as conservative as they want, and while it may look like the Bills shot for the moon to retain Byrd, information so far is incomplete and borderline pointless.

NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport and CBS Sports reporter Jason La Canfora each tweeted within 10 minutes of each other this afternoon that part of the Bills' contract offer to Byrd would've made the three-time Bowler among the highest-paid safeties.

La Canfora tweeted the first two years would've made Byrd one of the highest-paid. Rapoport tweeted Byrd would've been the highest-paid "for a portion of his deal."

If the entire contract was so attractive, then the media wouldn't be reporting partial details.

And what's missing is the most critical bit of NFL contract information, the guaranteed money.

Which reminds me about the numbers that were wafting around last year. The Bills told some outlets they offered Byrd a contract that would've made him one of the NFL's three highest-paid safeties.

That sounds impressive. Again, it's hollow info.

Here's what I wrote last July, when the Bills and Byrd's agent, Eugene Parker, failed to reach terms on a multiyear contract extension:

Being the "highest-paid this" or among the "top three highest-paid that" is meaningless unless you know how the Bills or Parker define "highest-paid."

Highest-paid based on total dollars? Highest-paid based on average salary? Highest-paid based on guaranteed money? Highest-paid based on 2013 salary or dollars at the end of contract?

How many years are in the offer? Is the contract front-loaded, so the player gets most of his base-salary money early? Is the contract back-loaded, so the team can cut the player before they pay him some of his larger base salaries?

The only time all of this information becomes known is when a signed contract is registered with the NFL and the players' association.

NFL contracts aren't fully guaranteed like they are in the NHL. Teams can end them whenever they want, usually before a big-money bonus is due to be paid.

Also, contract objectives usually come down to what the player deems more important. Maybe he wants big money now, but usually he wants security with his second contract and prefers more years.

Byrd will be 27 years old when the next season begins. He's two years younger than Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson, who signed a five-year contract last offseason worth $41.25 million and $22 million in guarantees.

Byrd has been to three Pro Bowls, including last season. Goldson has been to two, but didn't make it last season. Byrd has 22 interceptions (seven more than Goldson), 11 forced fumbles (four more than Goldson) and five recoveries (same number as Goldson) in 73 career games (21 fewer than Goldson).

For those into where players' salaries rank, Goldson went into last season as the third highest-paid safety behind Troy Polamalu and Eric Berry based on average salary.

WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia (he had much of the news first) and La Canfora also have reported the Bills will not use the franchise tag on Byrd now.

That makes sense if the Bills feel like they've made a valiant effort and have received feedback that a long-term deal with their star safety isn't going to happen.

A few weeks back, I wrote an analysis on the Bills' franchise tag and whether they would use it on Byrd. There are legitimate reasons for the tag and against it.

I and other reporters tweeted last week from the NFL scouting combine the Bills would use their franchise tag on Byrd if the sides couldn't reach terms by Monday's deadline, but that sentiment seems to have dried up.

  • bill

    the NFL contracts are a total joke.........union leadership belongs in jail, they are obviously in bed with the owners

  • repomania

    Maybe he wants to play for a winning team?

    • BuffaloFan4Life

      Byrd could care less about "winning." If he did, he would have signed a long term deal last year instead of obsessing about being the highest paid safety. Look at the strides his defense made in just this past season, when a good DC was finally hired. Yet here he is again, NOT signing the contract offered. The Bills should absolutely franchise tag him again, and continue to use his skills to help them WIN. Then, next year at this time, I hope they trade him to the worst team in the NFL, after they draft or sign as an UFA a safety perhaps not quite as talented, but good enough to continue their path of WINNING.

      • repomania

        He was tagged last year so he couldn't sign a long term contract with a winning team. Pay attention.

  • WHAT?

    Wow. All last season, many on the BN staff operated under the assumption that the Bills low balled Byrd, but didn't provide any details. One went so as far as telling Byrd that the Bills front office wanted him to play poorly to justify the low offer. Now the shoe is on the other foot, with some reporting that the Bills offered $30 million guaranteed over the first 3 years, and suddenly, we need to know all the details before judging the offer.

    • Tim Graham

      You're seriously misguided, dear commenter. Byrd didn't want to be franchised, and the two sides barely negotiated last year because each party played hardball and didn't speak. No "staffer" said the Bills wanted Byrd to play poorly. Byrd said he thought there were people rooting against him. Your takes are way off the mark. But thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

      • WHAT?

        I read your original article regarding the situation. It said that you suggested to him that the front office wanted him to play poorly. If the article was taken down because it was improperly edited in some way, I apologize. The article stated he gave his reaction to that statement. I am not mistaken in my remembering this, and I commented on it before it was taken down and changed. The "take" is not "way off the mark" with the information given then. I also maintain that much of the BN staff has assumed that the Bills low balled, but again have given no details to that effect. I'm not seriously misguided, you are overly defensive.

        • Tim Graham

          We don't remove stories. Here it is:

          http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/bills-byrd-says-critics-wanted-me-to-fail-20131231

          And I can understand why you would think I'm being overly defensive as you have demonstrated a propensity to misread. You impugned the professional character of the person who wrote the above article (me) and his coworkers. And you were wrong. So I pointed that out. I'm allowed to do that.

          • BuffaloFan4Life

            "...It was suggested to Byrd that there might even have been some folks at One Bills Drive who grimaced to learn he had been selected for another Pro Bowl, not wanting his controversial contract stance publicly validated.

            “That’s an interesting observation,” Byrd said. “That’s a good point. I’m not going to expound on that, but it’s a valid point.”..."

            Come on Tim. You take being defensive to a record level. Is it really that "misreading" and "impugn-ING" to take that sentence YOU DID WRITE above, and turn it into saying that some people within the Bills wanted Byrd to play poorly?? If they grimaced when they learned he had been selected for another Pro Bowl, is that supposed to mean that they wanted him to play GREAT, but just not get selected for the Pro Bowl??? If they grimaced when they learned he had been selected for another Pro Bowl, wouldn't that have made them SMILE if he had played poorly, TIM?????

            It's one thing for today's sportswriters to fill their articles with unsubstantiated opinion. It's another thing when one of them comes onto the fans' reaction site and tries to defend his unsubstantiated opinions by knit picking exactly what he wrote. How completely hypocritical. You offer zero proof of who inside the Bills front office did the "grimacing", yet you get so huffy about a fan's own interpretation of those words! We are FANS, we only use opinion out here, Tim. YOU are supposed to be the one providing us with the FACTS, remember??

          • Tim Graham

            That was a follow up question to the comment he gave at the beginning of the story:

            “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t acknowledge the criticism and the
            pressure that was there. I felt people, because of the negativity, almost wanted me to fail at that point. They wanted to say, ‘I told you so.’ ”

            It's my job to find out what he means, after all.

            But thanks for reading and for commenting. Hate clicks count the same as any other.

          • BuffaloFan4Life

            HATE clicks? I don't hate you, Mr. defensive. And by the way, who were the ones who grimaced, even if you didn't ask the question, and you were just following up whoever "suggested" someone grimaced at One Bills Drive, isn't it still your job to try to follow up the rumors and turn them into facts? I want to know who was doing the grimacing. It's a rumor that Byrd stated was valid, and you found valid enough to print. Oh that's right, it's NOT your job to prove anything you write anymore. Now it's only to re-print the latest tweets and twitters by other sports writers who don't know the facts. I forgot.

          • Tim Graham

            I didn't say you did. I just thanked you for reading and commenting. Thanks again.

          • BuffaloFan4Life

            You didn't say I hated you. You thanked me for commenting. But you did say "hate clicks count the same as any other." You do know how to play with your own words, Tim. Very nice.

          • Tim Graham

            Thank you, Byron. That's very nice of you.

          • Tim Graham

            I'm not playing with my words. You're interpreting them and responding. I appreciate your interest.

          • Byron

            I appreciated the article Tim, and any information that the BN sportswriters provide to the fans about the Bills. Keep up the great work and looking forward to many more informative articles. Thanks again...

          • MaoSayTongue

            You are busted. LIAR.

            "It was suggested to Byrd . . ."

            The passive voice really stands out there. The sportswriter (not writer) obviously is hiding his part in the suggestion--why else resort to the PASSIVE VOICE?

            It SHOULD read "I suggested to Byrd . . .", but that would expose the sportswriter for what he is.

  • Ralph Phillips

    One would think, if his market value is as great as Byrd thinks it is, the Bills would be easily be able to work out a trade for him before the draft. One would think that he'd be at least worth a high first rounder, in a year when good draft prospects are plentiful. We need to fill so many holes that the prospect of having a competitive team is 2-3 years away. Even our relatively young players (like Dareus), are nearing the end of their contracts. I'd be trying to get as many high round draft choices as possible now. I'd trade everyone who you could get a good draft pick for if you don't see that player around 2 years from now.

  • BuffaloFan4Life

    So if the Bills don't use the tag later today, then they will be allowing Bryd to simply walk out of Buffalo for nothing. And this in light of the fact that they have so much cap space, they can easily absorb the one year deal he would earn under the franchise tag.

    You know, I should have been a sports writer. Facts simply have no place in the sports writers world of tweets and rumors and 24 hour "breaking" news these days. Can there be an easier job in the world today?? I'll tell you what. If the Bills don't use the franchise tag on Byrd today, and they don't sign him to a long term deal today, and the professional "twitter-ers" end up being right, then I will never understand how the minds of Littman, Overdorf and what's left of Wilson's works......ever.

    • conor conner

      Byrd franchise tag = 8 games out w/ injury until time to showcase his goods to other teams late in the year.

      • BuffaloFan4Life

        Sure, that's possible. The dreaded "Plantar Fasci-I won't play until I have to-itis" could rear it's ugly head again next September. But the Bills would still retain his rights for another year, and can still TRADE him for SOMETHING. If they don't tag him, he will simply take the best deal in free agency in a couple weeks and the Bills will get nothing back.

    • MaoSayTongue

      That's why they are called sportswriters instead of writers.

  • Eugene P

    Thank you for the article Tim. I thought the first reports coming out were odd. Rarely do you hear things like "offer would have made Byrd highest paid safety for portion of deal" and "$30M for first 3 years". Wouldn't we normally hear something more like "Bills offer $50M deal to Byrd".
    Just seems like a spin job on a deal that had some other issues. What is the saying about putting lipstick on a pig?

    • MaoSayTongue

      Byrd won't accept any offer from the Bills. He only hired Parker to get him out of Buffalo.

    • BuffaloFan4Life

      Well put, Eugene. Despite the fact I am not a fan of Byrd's overwhelming greed, I have to put the blame on the Bills here as well. Team Dictators Littman/Overdorff/Wilson (whatever part the 95 year old Ralph Wilson still plays in all of this anyway), never seem to get this right.

      They went out out a couple years ago and had no trouble paying Mario Williams a deal he simply could not refuse. Most people around the NFL felt they overpaid for the former number one pick in the '06 draft who never really lived up to expectations. Here we are two years later, with a ton of cap space and money to spend, and they continue to play hard ball with one of the most talented safeties in the NFL. Jarius Byrd only makes plays, all day long. Unlike big Mario, who is known to "take plays off." Byrd can hit, cover AND can catch the football. He's a tad selfish for my taste personally, but the guy can play.

      And yet it appears there will be no deal going into the second straight year with this guy! I wonder what Doug Whaley really would have done regarding this negotiation if he had ANY say in it at all, like most true GM's in the NFL do?

  • MaoSayTongue

    I think Eugene Parker is working for one or more prospective Bills' ownership groups, to make the team as bad as possible so it will be easier to move them once Welfare Ralphie goes home to hell.

    I'm pretty sure that Gilmore and Glenn are also his clients. Players sign with Eugene Parker because they know he will get them out of Buffalo.

    Byrd hired Parker because he doesn't want to play for the Bills. Period.

    • BuffaloFan4Life

      MaoSay, classic. "Welfare Ralphie goes home to hell." Despite the fact I disagree with your opinion of Wilson 100%, I have to admit that line made me laugh out loud. I do enjoy the humor out here.

  • BuffaloFan4Life

    "As The Twitter Turns". Check out this gem above from Joe B:

    Joe Buscaglia
    @JoeBuscaglia
    Follow
    I'm hearing the #Bills explored all their options including a trade of Byrd and now they're unlikely to tag him.

    No wonder I hate twitter, and refuse to open an account and "follow" anyone. Why would I want to spend all day having sports media personalities spreading their latest rumors and unsubstantiated stories about things that may or may not happen? Sure, Joe Buscaglia might be 100% right, and whoever he's "hearing from the Bills" from may be telling him 100% truth. But who cares 3 hours before the real news comes out anyway?

    And after all the drama over Byrd and wasting the franchise tag on him last year at this time, if the Bills really did "explore" trades, and try to sign Byrd, only to fail on both counts, I really don't want to know about this moronic decision by the Bills front office before I have to anyway.

    • MaoSayTongue

      Only dweebs use Twitter.

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About the reporters

Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.