The Buffalo Bills have reportedly been working on a contract extension for impending free agent safety Jairus Byrd for months. If push comes to shove and the Bills can't get him signed long-term before his contract expires in March, we now have an idea of how little it will cost the team to put the franchise tag on him.
Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the franchise tag number for safeties this year is expected to be $6.798 million. That's considerably less than the deal that a safety comparable to Byrd, San Diego's Eric Weddle, signed in July of 2011 (five years, $40 million, $19 million guaranteed).
Byrd and his agent are almost certainly asking for a contract along the lines of the deal Weddle signed - adjusted for league inflation, of course. The fourth-year pro is worthy of that asking price; he's racked up 71 tackles, five interceptions and four forced fumbles this season, and is the only consistent play-maker on a terrible Bills defense.
Between Byrd and starting left guard Andy Levitre, the "other" big impending free agent, the safety will by far be the easier player to retain. There is no delineation between tackles, guards and centers for franchise tag numbers, so the $9.66 million tag number for offensive linemen will most definitely not come into play for Levitre. Buffalo re-signed their other starting guard, Kraig Urbik, to a four-year, $15 million contract last week.