Buffalo Bills hope to sign Byrd to long-term deal

The Buffalo Bills are playing the waiting game with Jairus Byrd

while hoping to sign their star safety to a long-term contract

extension.

Byrd was the only member of the Bills not in attendance for the

start of Buffalo’s first voluntary minicamp under new coach Doug

Marrone on Tuesday. His absence was not a surprise, however, after

the safety was given the franchise tag on March 1.

General manager Buddy Nix said at the team’s predraft luncheon

that the Bills are hoping to sign Byrd to a multiyear deal, but Nix

doesn’t know when talks will start to pick up.

”There’s been some contact and we’re making an effort to try to

get a long-term deal done with Jairus,” Nix said. ”But you know –

and I don’t mean this in a bad way – I haven’t given it much

thought. I don’t mean that we’re not interested, because we

certainly need him and eventually he’ll probably be here. But

there’s nothing we can do except try to get a contract done. If it

doesn’t work, then the ball’s in his court. He comes when basically

he gets ready.”

The Bills could certainly use Byrd as they attempt to make over

one of the worst defenses in the league last season Buffalo

finished 26th in the NFL in points allowed last year and 22nd in

yards allowed.

The 26-year-old Byrd has been Buffalo’s most consistent defender

in recent seasons. A second-round pick in 2009, Byrd was fourth on

the team in tackles in 2012 with 76 and led the team in

interceptions with five. He has 18 career interceptions, tied for

third most among NFL players since 2009. His breakout season came

as a rookie when he tied for the NFL lead with nine

interceptions.

New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine plans on installing a

hybrid defense that attacks opposing quarterbacks, which could play

to Byrd’s strengths. Byrd excels in deep coverage and would benefit

from an improved Buffalo pass rush.

”We’d love to have him here yesterday, but we don’t,” Nix

said. ”So we’re going to work hard to get ready these guys that

we’ve got.”

By giving Byrd the franchise tag, the Bills essentially gave the

safety a one-year contract offer worth $6.9 million. Byrd does not

have to accept the offer and is free to negotiate with other teams.

The Bills have the right to match any offer Byrd receives or get

two first-round picks in return as compensation from any team that

signs Byrd.

Byrd is one of two players in the league to remain unsigned

after receiving the franchise tag. Denver offensive tackle Ryan

Clady is also without a contract, while the six other tagged

players signed their one-year offers.

The Bills also announced a change on the depth chart behind

Byrd. Aaron Williams, a second-round pick in 2011, has moved from

cornerback to safety. The 22-year-old has struggled in coverage

throughout his time in the pros, prompting the position switch.