Jairus Byrd signed a six-year deal reportedly worth $54 million - $28 million of that guaranteed - with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday evening. His five-year run as a member of the Buffalo Bills is officially over.
The nature of the signing is not surprising. Byrd was never likely to last long on the open market, even despite reported concerns about his plantar fasciitis, and the Saints made sure to lock him up before the first night was even over. He and agent Eugene Parker were able to field an offer worth $9 million annually, something that Peter King of Sports Illustrated reported was their expectation on Monday, and several other outlets had reported as the rough figure for more than a year. The $28 million in guarantees came out a bit higher than many expected, as well.
A question that may be on the minds of Bills fans today is whether or not Buffalo's final offer measured up to the Saints' in any way.
We're not likely to ever know enough detail about Buffalo's offer to say definitively whether or not that's true, but the details we are aware of point toward it not being in the same wheelhouse. Last week, when the Bills decided not to franchise tag Byrd, John Wawrow of The Associated Press reported that Buffalo's final offer would have paid Byrd $30 million over the first three years of the deal. Some have mistaken that as a guaranteed figure; it isn't, but the $10 million average would've made Byrd the top-paid free safety in the NFL for part of the deal. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported, separately, that Byrd had rejected the Bills' final offer.
Late Tuesday night, after the news of Byrd signing with New Orleans became official, Tim Graham of The Buffalo News provided two more details - one about the Bills' final offer, and one about Byrd's signing bonus with the Saints.
Graham reports that Buffalo's final offer would have paid Byrd roughly $7.5 million per season over the life of the deal. That does not necessarily refute Wawrow's report, of course; the Bills could have simply offered Byrd a six-year, $45 million contract that paid him $10 million per season for three years, and $5 million per season for another three. (If their offer was shorter than that, then Byrd's annual take after the first three years would have been even smaller.)
Byrd also will pull in an $11 million signing bonus from the Saints, according to Graham. The guaranteed figure of Buffalo's final offer has been conspicuously absent for more than a week, and it would not be surprising if that remained the case. This is the most important missing context of Buffalo's offer, and may have been an even bigger factor in Byrd's decision to leave than the annual average over the life of the contract.
Bills fans have had a choice to make for a week now: fret over the small amount of detail we're aware of, or take a brass tacks point of view and realize that the Bills willingly decided to let an excellent football player - one of their precious few - hit the open market. Byrd is a Saint, and Buffalo's offseason is still off to a bad start.