The Buffalo Bills chose not to franchise tag Jairus Byrd on Monday. While fans castigate the Bills for letting the opportunity slip away, there is another opportunity that was lost, as well. The transition tag was also an option for Byrd, and that may have been a simpler option if the Bills were indeed interested in keeping Byrd long-term, as general manager Doug Whaley suggested they were on Monday afternoon.
The transition tag is supposed to be cheaper than the franchise tag, but with Byrd's large financial figure from his initial franchise tag, he would have been guaranteed 120 percent of his 2013 salary, totaling $8.299 million. Unlike the franchise tag, if a transition player signs a contract with another team, the Bills wouldn't receive any compensation for his departure - but they would have had an opportunity to match the offer and keep Byrd in town.
The idea is this: let Byrd see what the market can bear, and match his best offer if it's within the bounds of what you consider acceptable. Other teams would potentially feel more comfortable offering a contract since they wouldn't need to give up anything to get Byrd; that might mean a larger-than-acceptable offer comes down the pipe, but at least the Bills would have had some form of final leverage.
That seems simple - and the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers both used that tag on Monday, by the way - but it's not something that is commonly done. What's to stop Byrd from simply playing out the year just like a franchise tag? If the Bills were worried his head (or feet) wouldn't be in it this season, there is little incentive for them to offer the contract because there would be little incentive for Byrd to sign another team's offer sheet and worry that the Bills would match.
Simply put, the concept that Buffalo missed an opportunity is very real, but if they believe Byrd doesn't want to play in Buffalo, using either tag could have netted the same prolonged holdout headache, convincing Byrd to show up, and ultimately the same type of season from the Pro Bowl safety. It was probably discussed, but it was probably not a long conversation.