On Thursday, the Buffalo Bills announced they had placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on safety Jairus Byrd. That doesn't mean the two sides will stop negotiating a longer deal, as they have until July 15 to continue working towards a full extension. After that date, they will have to wait until after the 2013 season for an extension to kick in.
A long-term deal would be attractive for Byrd if he wants to continue playing in Buffalo. He signed a four-year, $4.15 million contract when he was one of Buffalo's second-round picks in 2009. An extension would give Byrd a healthy signing bonus - Tennessee Titans safety Michael Griffin's five-year, $35 million deal a year ago netted him a $9 million signing bonus. Byrd's tag is considered salary, and won't be paid until the season starts, so he won't get the entire amount until the year concludes.
Buffalo's incentive lies in cap space and headaches. If they want to secure Byrd's services beyond 2013, it would behoove them to get a deal worked out this off-season so that they don't have to go through the entire process again in 2014. They could also clear up cap space this off-season to pursue key free agents and re-sign guard Andy Levitre, the other player Buffalo selected in 2009's second round.
The early use of the tag - the Bills had until Monday to use it - could indicate that the sides are far away on numbers, and with other free agents closer to the end of their contracts, Buffalo's priorities should shift short-term to Levitre, Leodis McKelvin, Kyle Moore and the looming free agent period.