As expected, the Buffalo Bills have placed the franchise tag on free safety Jairus Byrd, preventing him from becoming a free agent this season.
The move prevents Byrd from hitting the open market on March 12 when free agency begins, and if the team does not sign Byrd to a long-term contract extension by the time the 2013 season begins (and assuming he signs the franchise tender and reports to his first Doug Marrone training camp), he'll receive a base salary of $6.916 million. The Bills will likely continue to pursue that long-term extension, but the early use of the franchise tag may signal that the two sides aren't as close as we'd like them to be on that front.
Byrd, 26, has recorded 18 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, two sacks and 27 defended passes in his four-year career (55 starts in 62 games). Widely regarded as one of the best safeties in the NFL, Byrd is a two-time Pro Bowl player and earned second-team All-Pro honors this past season.
This is the first time that the Bills have used the franchise tag since 2006, when they kept cornerback Nate Clements from hitting free agency. Clements struck it big as a free agent with the San Francisco 49ers the following off-season; here's to hoping that that particular bit of history does not repeat itself with Byrd.