Buffalo Bills GM Doug Whaley insists that the team remains open to negotiating a long-term contract agreement with free agent safety Jairus Byrd, but he's also talking like a man resigned to watching a star player depart for greener pastures via free agency.
"We understand out there in Bills nation that everybody’s going to say we’re going to lose Byrd for nothing. Unfortunately, that’s the business we’re in," Whaley said in a taped interview for The John Murphy Show. "With the salary cap, you cannot keep everybody. But if you look in the years past, last year (Eric Wood), Leodis McKelvin, Erik Pears, (Kraig Urbik) - we have tried to sign as many of our free agents as possible. Everybody was happy when Mario Williams signed with us. It’s just the nature of the salary cap era. We won’t be able to keep everybody."
Calling Byrd a "tremendous player," Whaley noted that the team was comfortable with the value of the offer that they made to agent Eugene Parker, and explained his decision to not apply the franchise tag for a second straight year.
"We thought, for us to get to where we needed to go, we would want Jairus for the long term. That’s what our focus was on this year," Whaley told Murphy. "Last year, we thought it was going to give us another year - or less than that - to negotiate. We’ve been at this for a while, and again, we think this is the best thing for the Buffalo Bills."
Murphy also asked Whaley about the option of tagging Byrd in the hopes of finagling a trade for the services of the three-time Pro Bowl and two-time second team All-Pro safety. Whaley explained the thought process behind that foregone course of action, as well.
"You’d have to find a partner, and there’s a lot of moving parts, because then you have to settle on compensation value. Also, they have to be able to feel comfortable to sign him to a long-term deal," Whaley explained. "So there was a lot of moving parts in there that we just felt wasn’t beneficial for the Buffalo Bills."
Asked about the value that the Bills place on the safety position, particularly as the team transitions to a new defense coordinated by Jim Schwartz, Whaley explained that valuing Byrd and the position he plays is a collaborative effort between coaches and the personnel department.
"When Schwartz came in, we said rank the most important guy in your defense on down, and then we kind of mesh it with what we think is the value of guys at certain levels at those positions," Whaley said Monday. "It’s a concerted effort between myself, the coaching staff, the personnel staff and the business administration staff."
Finally, Murphy also asked Whaley if the decision to essentially let Byrd walk would send an undesirable message to the players currently in Buffalo's locker room.
"I don’t think that message is going to be anything more than it’s something that just didn’t materialize," Whaley said. "Because again, last year we signed Wood, we signed Urbik - we signed guys that have been on this team, and that we came together with their representatives and met the middle on a perfect value that was fair for both of us. I still believe those guys will see that we’re making a concerted effort to re-sign our own guys."
Make sure you listen to the entirety of Whaley's interview with Murphy here. This was a separate session from the short news conference he held with a contingent of reporters earlier on Monday afternoon, which Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News summarized here.