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Doug Whaley on Byrd: System not set up to sign everybody

Doug Whaley on Byrd: System not set up to sign everybody


Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley stopped short of admitting that Pro Bowl free safety Jairus Byrd is gone but expressed confidence Monday that the organization can replace him if necessary.

The Bills' final big push to reach a contract agreement with Byrd before today's 4 p.m. deadline to use the franchise tag fell short. Whaley called the Bills' offer to Byrd's agent, Eugene Parker, "significant." But the Bills will not use the franchise tag on Byrd.

That means Byrd will hit unrestricted free agency in on March 11. The Bills still could sign Byrd in the next week before free agency starts. Whaley kept the door open to more talks with Parker. But realistically, the Bills needed to get a deal done by Monday. A league source told The News Byrd's intention is to hit free agency and see what his value is on the open market.

"We place a value on a person or player, they have a value they have in their mind, and we just have not been able to meet," said Whaley, referring to meeting on a contract value that was acceptable to both sides.

Why not put tag on him and then try to trade him? "That takes another team to do it with," Whaley said. "So we felt for the best long-term future of the Buffalo Bills was not to tag him. ... There's a lot of moving parts in that situation."

It probably would not be easy for the Bills to find a team that both wanted to meet Byrd's contract demands and then give Buffalo something substantial in return via a trade. The problem with keeping him for a second season under the franchise tag, which would have cost $8.4 million, is Byrd surely would have held out until the start of the regular season, as he did last year. Byrd wound up playing 10 full games for the Bills last season. But not having the leader of the defensive secondary for all of training camp and preseason is not the ideal way to go into a regular season.

Asked how important he viewed the free safety position, Whaley said: "Id have to start with a defensive end and a corner before you go safety."

"I know the fans are going to say why didn’t we get something for him?" Whaley said. "This system is not set up where you can sign everybody. We’ve done a great job signing guys that we’ve had. Look at Leodis McKelvin and Eric Wood last year. Freddie Jackson, Kraig Uribk. So we do put an emphasis on signing and keeping our players. It’s just with the salary cap system and the way the NFL is, you can’t keep everybody. But it also makes it exciting for our fans. Because they’re excited about Mario Williams. Houston, they lost him for nothing. So that’s just the system we have to deal with. I have complete confidence, not only in everybody in this organization that has given us the resources and the backing, but also our scouting staff, that if we are unfortunate enough to lose Jairus Byrd; we found him, we’ll be confident that we can get a replacement, if we don’t have one already on campus."

Asked if he considered Aaron Williams capable of being a No. 1 safety, if necessary, Whaley said, "Absolutely."


  • Hal Jam

    Whaley did the right thing. Byrd is not worth what he wants. He's not even worth what the Bills have offered him. I would have tagged him, but his attitude is so bad, it's probably not worth it. Besides, Byrd only makes plays against crap teams in blowout wins. How many times has Byrd ever made the difference against the Pats? Or any good team?

    • repomania

      Bad attitude? Maybe he is just sick of playing for a losing team and wants to join a winning team? Plus, why wouldn't he try free agency? Makes sense to me.

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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 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.