Jarius Byrd is destined to be tagged after his agent, Eugene "I hate Buffalo" Parker, not only doesn't back off of his 2013 insistence that Byrd be the highest paid safety in the NFL but actually demands even more now that Buffalo can't tag Byrd in 2015. At some point in the negotiations Parker can trot out an offer made by Cleveland in the ‘legal tampering' period. With over $38 million in cap space Cleveland could easily afford to make Byrd the highest paid safety in the game. Pettine wants him badly. Buffalo's options would be to squat on Byrd's rights in 2014 and watch him walk away in 2015 with no compensation - particularly since the Bills always seem to get screwed out of any compensatory picks - or tag and trade Byrd before the 2014 season begins.
It's doubtful that no one will give as much for Byrd as Cleveland. Jacksonville has the cap room and draft position. The Packers don't have a history chasing high priced players from other teams but safety is a crying need, they have the cap space and their window for competing for championships is open thanks to Aaron Rogers. The Redskins have the cap space and an owner with a willingness to sign free agents willy-nilly but they don't have the draft ammo thanks to the RGIII trade. The Raiders have the cash but with Al Davis underground Oakland doesn't seem likely to take fliers on freaks in the first round nor to give away draft picks. The Jets will have cap space after dumping Sanchez but Buffalo won' trade Byrd in the division and the same is true for Miami.
So, the three potential suitors for a tag-and-trade deal for Byrd are Cleveland, Jacksonville and Green Bay. Because the Raiders have so much cap space I will include them as well, though I suspect they'll stick to signing free agents and not trading for Byrd.
Cleveland picks 4 (1800), 26 (700), 35 (550), 71 (235), 93 (175), 102 (92), 123 (49), 133 (39.5), 164 (25.8), 195 (13.4)
Jacksonville picks 3 (2200), 39 (510), 70 (240), 101 (96), 110 (74), 132 (40), 138 (37), 147 (32.6), 163 (26.2), 199 (11.8)
Green Bay picks 21 (800), 53 (370), 85 (165), 117 (60), 149 (31.8), 181 (19), 213 (6.2)
Oakland picks 5 (1700), 36 (540), 67 (255), 103 (88), 165 (25.4), 196 (13), 212 (6.6)
Cleveland won't be giving up pick 4 for Byrd; he's simply not worth it. Besides, the Browns have a good defense and a black hole at QB. I see Cleveland as trying to move up in the first instead of hoping that the QB they want falls to them. To do that they'll need not only 4 but also 26. Their offer to Buffalo would most likely be built around picks 35 and 71, perhaps with a 2015 3rd or 4th depending on Byrd's 2014 performance.
Jacksonville can't move out of 3 because it's the only way to get one of the top QBs in the draft. Fortunately they don't need to move up. Their offer would be built around 39 and 70, again with a 2015 3rd round pick.
Unlike the Browns and Jags, the Packers don't have to worry about their QB situation. They have the latitude to drop out of the first round entirely. What are the odds that they'd get a better player than Byrd at 21?
Oakland is the most interesting of the four teams to me. The Raiders could flip positions in the first round with Buffalo (1700 for 5 vs 1350 for 9 = 350 value) and ship Buffalo pick 36. The 2014 trade value would be 890, higher than Green Bay's (800), Jacksonville (750 + 2015 3rd), or Cleveland (785 + 2015 3rd or 4th).
It's important to remember that Byrd could effectively scuttle any trade by refusing to sign a long term deal with the other team. I doubt that Parker would have made assurances about Byrd signing a long term deal ONLY with Cleveland as that would limit his ability to get more cash. I instead see Parker playing other offers against Cleveland's.
Let's look at the draft with the non-Raiders trades in mind.
- Houston isn't getting out of this slot. They're all but certain to take a QB, regardless of which one. I'll go with the popular name at this point though they could prefer one of the other two. Houston Texans: QB Blake Bortles.
- St Louis has flat out said they won't take a QB. Sure, they could be blowing smoke but how does that help in this instance? Pretending they want a QB is more of a way to drum up interest in pick 2. What they have is a desperate need on the offensive line. With Houston and Jacksonville virtually mortal locks to take QBs dropping to 4 will allow the Rams to get one of the two offensive tackles while picking up another pick. Cleveland Browns: QB Johnny Manziel.
- Jacksonville has to have a QB. Gabbert has been a total bust for whatever reason. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Teddy Bridgewater.
- Jeff Fischer would doubtlessly love to add Jadeveon Clowney to his already talented defensive end rotation. Adding to a strength while ignoring a need seems unwise, particularly since other teams would be calling to try to get Clowney. With Jared Allen likely gone and slowing down even if he remains I can see the Vikings outbidding the Bucs (no 3rd round pick). Minnesota Vikings: DE Jadeveon Clowney.
- The Raiders need a QB upgrade but unless the team moves up to 2 there's little chance they'll get one of the top 3 guys. Their other top needs are at guard, CB and S, all of which are too early to take at 5. The Rams move back up, shipping a 3rd and 4th to Oakland...but still are way ahead of the game with their own 1st rounder, Cleveland's late 1st rounder as well as Minny's 2nd round pick. Oh, and they get the guy Fisher would have taken at 2 if he couldn't trade out of the spot. St Louis Rams: OT Jake Matthews.
- Atlanta was terrible because their offensive line was just awful. Atlanta Falcons: OT Greg Robinson.
- Sammy Watkins isn't likely to get past 7. If he's still here the team with the pick (Bucs) can take him or trade down and address other needs. The Bucs don't have a glaring need at WR but may not be able to pass on Watkins. Tampa Bay: WR Sammy Watkins.
- This pick was traded to the Rams and then to the Raiders. ILB is a need for the Raiders and the team breaks many hearts in western New York. LB Khalil Mack.
- Buffalo is on the clock. Mack and Watkins are gone. With Byrd gone to Green Bay, Cleveland or Jacksonville the Bills could replace him with S Mark Pryor or S Clinton-Dix. TE Eric Ebron and WR Mike Evans could help the offense immediately. LBs CJ Mosley and Anthony Barr are on the board as well. If the Bills have similar grades on 3 or more of these guys the team could slide down the board a little and add a pick or two. If the team did the Green Bay deal then the Bills still have another pick (21) in the first.
If the Bills do the Raiders trade:
- Houston Texans: QB
- Cleveland Browns (same trade as above): QB
- Jacksonville Jaguars: QB
- St Louis takes an OT or DE or trades out for someone who takes Clowney: OT or DE
- Buffalo is on the clock with the task of choosing between WR Sammy Watkins or LB Khalil Mack.
Just to be clear, I'd prefer that Buffalo do a deal with Byrd. I don't know that is in the cards. The good news is that Doug Whaley signed Eric Wood long before he got anywhere near free agency and has been making noises about extending Dareus' deal. Identifying players you don't want to lose and getting them locked up before they get anywhere near free agency is the way to go. It may be too late for Byrd.
I didn't consider in this fanpost the minimum of $8 million in cap space the Bills would have if Byrd departed. That money certainly could be used to address another position of need, perhaps bringing in Anquan Boldin at WR or another safety.