I'm so tired of reading conspiracy type theories or that Byrd doesn't want to be here because he just wants out or to go to a winner and I'm so tired of hearing that Byrd is a bad guy or Parker is the devil reincarnate because their goal is to get the biggest contract possible that I need a Fanpost's worth of words to explain my opinions on how everything played out. Some topics in BOLD for those who want to skim because they are as sick of some of my arguments as I am of theirs or for those only looking for things mostly unsaid so far by others.
What Byrd wants: Is money. He doesn't just want out of Buffalo. The Bills and Parker talked last offseason and talked at the combine and talked more after the combine. Who spends all that time negotiating if the goal is just to get out of town? Also, if the goal was simply to get out of Buffalo, then Byrd would have trade value, maybe lots and lots of trade value. I really cannot believe how many comments I've seen that took Byrd rejecting an offer as confirmation that he doesn't want to be here. If Byrd's goal was to get out of Buffalo, why are the Bills even offering contracts? If Parker was telling Buffalo that Byrd wasn't going to re-sign, the Bills would have traded him a year ago.
There were a pair of mathematics inspired cognitive psychologists named Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman who did super interesting work as recently as 30-40 years ago. One of the main things they studied was how the mind made decisions concerning probabilities. In studying the topic, they discovered a variety of ways in which our conclusions are often wrong.
For a quick example, I'll update an old Tversky/Kahneman study: Take the best tennis player in the world. Say it's Rafa Nadal and he's in the US Open final, a tournament which he's one twice including last year. A group of people are asked to rank these four possibilities from most to least likely:
Nadal will win the match
Nadal will win the first set but lose match
Nadal will lose the first set
Nadal will lose the first set but win the match
On average, people choose that Nadal will lose the first set but win the match over Nadal losing the first set. But that breaks one of the main laws of statistics. It can't be more likely that Nadal loses the first set and wins the match than it is that he loses the first set. Because, of course, if we're just saying that Nadal loses the first set it includes the possibility that he wins the match and also includes the possibility that he loses the match.
The most famous of these experiments by Tversky and Kahneman is called the Linda Problem. Subjects were given this short blurb: "Imagine a woman named Linda, thirty one years old, single, outspoken and very bright. In college she majored in philosophy. While a student she was deeply concerned with discrimination and social justice and participated in antinuclear demonstrations." They were asked to rank these eight possibilities from most to least likely (I'll list them in the order in which the subjects put them, on average):
Linda is active in the feminist movement
Linda is a psychiatric social worker
Linda works in a bookstore and takes yoga classes
Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement
Linda is a teacher in an elementary school
Linda is a member of the League of Women Voters
Linda is a bank teller
Linda is an insurance salesperson
An amazing 85% of subjects concluded that it was more likely that "Linda is a bank teller and active in the feminist movement" than "Linda is a bank teller". What Tversky and Kahneman did was intentionally bias the subjects. They gave a description of Linda that lead to people concluding she was likely to be involved in the feminist movement which made the more complex and less likely conjunctive possibility seem more likely than the simpler and more likely possibility. Basically, they concluded that a good, but unlikely story or a specific but unlikely story seems more probable than it really is. The point being that we've seen so many players leave that the conclusion seems like it's that players just want out of Buffalo. But that's not the most logical conclusion with Byrd.
Can anybody come up with an example or two of a star player in their 20s leaving a monster deal on the table to take less money to go to a winner? Yet how money times have we seen it suggested that Byrd will do that? People talk about that happening as if it's a common occurrence, but does it ever really happen? Or people talk about Byrd just wanting out of Buffalo, but how often do we actually lose players because they just want out? Lynch did, but it was for playing time and money reasons. McGahee is one. Over the last however many years, has anybody else left in FA because they just don't want to be here? Peters seems like it was about money, but maybe it wasn't. And all those examples are trades. Has a Buffalo Bill ever turned down a contract here to take a smaller one somewhere else, ever?
But 30 million in the first three years! Glitch was spot on in his comments about that. A 15 mil signing bonus and salaries of 4,5,6,7,8 is 30 mil over three years and 45 total. 9 mil a year would be a solid offer from Buffalo and if people want to get upset that Byrd would turn down a fair deal like that, then I get the emotion and the bias in favor of Buffalo. But is it really so crazy that Byrd and Parker believe they are looking at 9.5 or 10 mil a year and more guaranteed and upfront money on the open market and are simply choosing that direction? Does that really make Byrd and Parker villains?
For reference, Andy Levitre signed a 6 year deal worth 48 mil last offseason which is under 8 mil per year. He's getting 20 mil in his first two years and 26 in his first three. Doesn't take much to get that up to 30 mil over the first three years with an offer that is down below 8.5 mil. We don't know what Buffalo offered, but we can make some pretty safe guesses. For one, that 3/30 number comes from the Buffalo Bills. Eugene Parker doesn't gain anything from leaking that info. In a week, he can send a mass email to every GM with his asking price. It's Buffalo who has to worry about PR. Since the info came from Buffalo, we can assume that it painted the Bills' offer in the best possible light. if the contract didn't notably drop off after those first few years, then why not leak more? We can be pretty confident that a deal for 9.5 or 10 mil a year over the life of the contract wasn't offered. And it's fairly likely that the offer wasn't even up at nine mil per year.
So Byrd wants gobs of money and Buffalo isn't going to give it to him, why not trade him?
The problem with a trade is that Byrd's contract demands are so high, he doesn't have much trade value. Yes, the Bills probably could have gotten a mid or late round pick, but maybe decided this offseason would lead to a comp pick. Maybe they viewed the possibility of the comp pick, the good will it creates with Parker and the lottery ticket of a possibility that Byrd doesn't get what he's looking for and winds up back in Buffalo as better than a 4th round pick.
I'll use Mario Williams coming to Buffalo as an example. For one, it's another instance of an organization letting a premiere player walk away for nothing. But the reason I think it's a good comparison is because Mario signed here because Buffalo was the team that offered the largest of the insanely large contracts. The Bills offered more than any other team was willing to and that is how they landed him. Since nobody else was willing to pay Mario that kind of contract, there wasn't another team in the league who would have taken on Mario, at his new contract, free of other compensation.
Jairus Byrd is asking for so much money that only a handful of teams in the league (assuming there are any and it may be that the open market forces Byrd's demands down) willing to take Byrd, at his asking price, for no additional compensation. If Byrd will only sign for, say, 6 years 60 mil, then nobody is going to trade a 1st or 2nd round pick to give him that deal. Sometimes star players do hit the open market and it's not necessarily because of an incompetent decision. Was Houston crazy for letting Mario walk? Is Carolina a joke for losing Julius Peppers? The Saints haven't shied away from paying guards and let Carl Nicks leave. Vincent Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Justin Smith, John Abraham, Nnamdi Asomougha, Brandon Carr, Charles Woodson, probably Brandon Albert, maybe Alex Mack leaves Cleveland under similar circumstances to Buf/Levitre. Is that a list of teams failing or making mistakes?
But why oh why does this always happen to Buffalo? Simple answer to this one. We are in a perpetual state of rebuild because we haven't even had a long shot's odds a Super Bowl since Jim Kelly retired. No QB has led to a carousel of coaching changes and the combo of no QB and ever changing HCs has led to endless rebuild. Find a QB and watch the Bills make more decisions with the short term in mind and with winning right now as the only goal. We're on our 6th HC in the 16 years since Levy/Kelly with 9 different QBs leading the team in pass attempts over that small of a span.
Has Parker leveraged his way into Byrd hitting the FA market? I've seen some thoughts, ranging from logical to conspiratorial, about the possibility of Parker forcing Buffalo's hand and it being the reason why Byrd has gone untagged. Personally, I don't buy it. At least, I don't think Parker has threatened or leveraged his way into UFA status for Byrd. Byrd wasn't going to holdout into the season. That was never, ever going to happen. No player in NFL history has left half as much money on the table that Byrd would have if he held out. That is literally a fact, no player has ever turned down a salary in the 4-5 mil range and held out, including Byrd just last year. I've seen talk of another fasciitis injury keeping Byrd out and I find it crazy that an agent would actually tell a team that his player would fake an injury. That's a career ending, disbarment degree of rule breaking. I guess it makes sense on an emotional level, but does anybody actually think that an agent who is a millionaire would go so far as to threaten a team that if they tagged a player, he would fake an injury?
Why not tag him? I can only assume that Buffalo has decided to never meet Byrd's current asking price and know that tagging him would not provide a real opportunity to sign him in the future. Considering that teams can roll over cap space and considering that the Bills are a one in a million shot to win the SB this year barring an astronomical leap from EJ, the Bills simply decided to save that money and use it on longer term investments. The Bills would love to keep Byrd, but only long term and clearly not on the contract Byrd is asking for. Say Aaron Williams wants 6mil per year (I actually wrote that before the extension!, I'll now change the figure to 6.5 per for 4 years). The Bills can now take that 8.4 mil they could have spent on Byrd this year and instead of keeping Byrd for one last year and re-signing Williams to a big deal, they let Byrd walk. One year of Byrd and five of Williams can turn into one year of Duke Williams and Jonathon Meeks or some other rookie as a backup role player and five years of Williams. Only now, Williams' extension might as well be for 4.4 mil per. Because the Bills could roll over those savings and use 2.1 mil of it per year to cover Williams' contract. Cap space is a commodity just like players are.
Should I be pissed off at the Bills over this? Sure! I'm pretty upset about this myself. Personally, I would have given him the enormous contract he was asking for. I think he's productive enough that he'd be worth it. I'd rather have one Byrd at 10 mil than a Hughes and a FA LB like Perry Riley at 5 mil each.