The Buffalo Bills have made several moves at safety this off-season as they transition to the attack-first defense coordinated by Mike Pettine. That defense, at times, incorporated three safeties on the field at once with the New York Jets. The team's moves at the position, however, are being interpreted as a signal that Jairus Byrd may not return.
"Organizationally of course we’d love to have him back," team president Russ Branson said of Byrd following the 2013 NFL Draft on Saturday. "We utilized the asset that was available to us with the franchise tag, as you all know. It’s a priority for the organization, and we hope to continue to work through the process with him and more importantly his agent, and we’ll keep conversations in a fluid process."
Buffalo added Duke Williams in the fourth round and Jonathan Meeks in the fifth. The team also moved Aaron Williams, a 2011 second-round selection, from cornerback to safety this month. The additions are not an indication of anything imminent with Byrd, says GM Buddy Nix.
"(Williams and Meeks) were the two best guys up there at the time we were picking," said Nix. "Obviously we want to be prepared for whatever happens."
That "whatever happens" is what scares Bills fans. Losing a play-making, in-his-prime safety regarded as one of the best players in the league at his position would be a big loss for a team looking to end a long playoff drought. With the departure of veteran George Wilson, the Bills will be younger and play faster at the position under Pettine. They also have 2011 fourth-round selection Da'Norris Searcy at the position. It remains to be seen when Byrd will sign his franchise tender and report.
"He has the opportunity to wait until he’s comfortable," said Brandon, who also says the team wants to sign Byrd long-term. "We’ll continue that dialogue. You always want to always have all your guys here, but we understand the situation and we’ll just keep working through it."