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Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills contract impasse: what's next?

Jairus Byrd can't sign a long-term contract with the Buffalo Bills until next March. What are his options for the 2013 season?


The deadline has come and gone for the Buffalo Bills and free safety Jairus Byrd to agree to a long-term contract extension. What's next in the contract impasse story? That's up to Byrd and his agent, Eugene Parker.

From the team's perspective, they will rightly stand their ground, as they have all off-season: either Byrd will play on the $6.916 million franchise tender that has been on the table since March 1, or he will sit games out and lose paychecks. They'll make it that simple for Byrd. It's the stance they took with Jason Peters in 2008, and it's the stance they'll take this time around, as well.

(For those wondering if the Bills would consider trading Byrd: they can't until he signs his tender, and now that the aforementioned long-term deal deadline has passed, Byrd wouldn't be able to sign a new contract with his new employers, anyway. With no guarantee that they'd have him for more than a year, teams would likely not be interested in Byrd, and the Bills wouldn't be interested in shopping him, given their interest in keeping him for their own roster.)

Byrd essentially has two options at this point: he can follow the team's best-case scenario, sign his tender and report for duty, or he can miss training camp and pre-season action in an effort to leverage the Bills into negotiating a one-year deal with contract terminology preventing the team from using the franchise tag on him again next spring. Buffalo, however, has no incentive to do that - not just on principle, but because they know that Byrd and Parker aren't likely to sacrifice nearly $7 million for that luxury.

ESPN's Andrew Brandt summed up best the belief that at some point, Byrd will sign his franchise tag and report for team activities:

The question no longer seems to be if Byrd will sign and report, but when. The idea that Byrd could hold out as late as November 12 seems far-fetched at this point.

It would not, however, be shocking if Parker advised Byrd to skip some or all of training camp and the pre-season. Parker knows that his client, the 26-year-old Byrd, is a stand-up citizen off the field and a great player on it; his reputation will withstand any negative press and fan resentment he receives during a summer holdout. He has just weathered a four-month period of time in which he could not convince the Bills to give his client what he wanted; why would he simply tell Byrd to report to camp on time, knowing that's exactly what the Bills want?

Parker has more cards to play, and the contract impasse seems very likely to continue into training camp. The only way that changes is if Byrd approaches Parker and flat-out tells him that he's going to camp - but that too seems unlikely, given that Byrd hired Parker for a reason and is unlikely to flat-out ignore his advice.

This story is far from over, but if common sense wins out, we're likely to see Byrd in a Bills uniform when the regular season begins.