With Jairus Byrd Tagged, Andy Levitre Now Center Stage For Bills

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Jairus Byrd has the franchise tag; what will Andy Levitre receive (if anything) from the Buffalo Bills?

Now that the Buffalo Bills have officially used the franchise tag to retain the services of free safety Jairus Byrd, their "other" big-name free agent now takes center stage with the start of free agency looming: left guard Andy Levitre.

Levitre, 27 in May, walked into the Bills' starting lineup in his rookie training camp and hasn't looked back, making 64 straight starts over his four seasons (with a handful of those at left tackle, and one at center). Considered by many to be the best free agent guard available on the market, Levitre is considered an elite-level pass protector, but his size (6'2", 305 pounds) hampers his run blocking a bit, and could depress his market value somewhat.

Still, if the Bills can't get Levitre signed to a long-term contract extension before free agency begins on March 12, the California native and Oregon State product is expected to be a sought-after commodity on the open market. The Bills have re-signed two interior linemen in recent months - Kraig Urbik got a new deal in December, and Colin Brown was re-signed less than two weeks ago - but it would clearly hurt the team to lose by far its most durable starter up front.

The Bills spoke with Levitre's agent at the 2013 NFL Combine last week in Indianapolis, but little to no detail has emerged for public consumption about how close the two sides might be on a long-term deal. If the Bills can't re-sign Levitre, it's expected by many that they'll try to lock up his backup, Chad Rinehart, as the penciled-in replacement. Rinehart, however, could get some action on the open market, as well.

Here's a question for the masses to act as a discussion-starter: if you had to place odds on Levitre returning to Buffalo in 2013, what would they be?

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