BBD Staff Writer: Ryan Talbot
Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News reported last week that Jairus Byrd wants out of Buffalo. While Byrd and Eugene Parker, his agent, have both denied the report, the Bills should not even entertain the idea of trading the talented safety, even if Byrd does in fact want out.
Recently, BBD editor Dan Hope made a case in favor of the Bills trading Byrd. In my opinion, the Bills should keep Byrd for the 2013-2014 season.
Limited Trade Market/Value
There are plenty of teams in the NFL that would love to have a free safety like Jairus Byrd on their team, but there aren’t many teams that can afford him. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com mentioned only 11 teams (New England, Denver, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Carolina, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Jacksonville and Cleveland according to another Rapoport tweet) could trade for Byrd based upon their salary cap situations. The limited number of teams does not help Buffalo establish a market for the talented safety.
Another factor hurting Byrd’s trade value is that any team that trades for Byrd cannot negotiate a new deal with him until after the season. This, and the belief safety is not a highly coveted position, makes it unlikely any team will even think of offering a first-round pick for Byrd.
Byrd’s value is also hurt by his plantar fasciitis. It is unknown when Byrd will be able to play this season due to his foot condition. When meeting with the media last week, Byrd was noncommittal about his return status, according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak.
“I need to be good to go before I step out there,” Byrd told reporters. “Once my body allows me to be out there and be at 100 percent ready to play, I’ll go.”
Teams aren’t going to line up to trade for a player with a nagging injury, especially one teams cannot negotiate with until after the season.
Depth at Safety
Buffalo’s depth at safety is another reason the team should hold onto Byrd for the season. The Bills currently have five other safeties on their roster: Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy, recently-signed veteran Jim Leonhard and rookies Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks. None of the following players exactly inspire confidence with Bills fans.
Aaron Williams is in his first season as a safety and while he showed a lot of promise at training camp, he had some gaffes in the preseason. Williams should perform better in his new role than he did at cornerback, but he’s still an unknown at the safety position.
Searcy started the 2012 season as a backup safety, but he started to take reps away from Bills strong safety George Wilson by the end of last season. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), 176 of Searcy’s 279 defensive snaps last season took place between Week 9 and Week 16. While Searcy earned his way onto the field last year, he has struggled with his consistency.
Searcy played a decent game on Sunday against the Patriots, but his play was a bit up and down. While Searcy scored a defensive touchdown and earned a +1.3 rating in run coverage, he struggled in pass coverage with a -2.5 grade according to PFF. Overall, Searcy finished with a -0.9 rating, which ranked 43rd among all NFL safeties in Week 1, not including Monday night’s games.
Duke Williams has plenty of potential, but neither rookie safety is ready to see the field for significant periods of time.
The Bills signed Leonhard on Sept. 2. Leonhard knows defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s system, as he played for Pettine with the Baltimore Ravens in 2008 and with the New York Jets from 2009 through 2011. Last season, Leonhard played in all 16 regular season games for the Denver Broncos, but he did not start once. He can still contribute for Buffalo, but Leonhard isn’t a long-term solution at safety.
The Bills may not be considered contenders this season, but anything can happen in the NFL. If the Bills want their best chance of winning, it’ll be with Byrd in their defensive backfield. If Byrd and the Bills are successful in 2013, he may consider staying with the Bills, although that seems unlikely at this point.
Buffalo Controls the Situation
Unless the Bills are blown away with a trade offer, they have no reason to trade Byrd away. Buffalo can have Byrd in their secondary for the 2013 season while they develop their younger safeties. At the end of the season the Bills can let Byrd walk, or if they want to get value for Byrd, they could franchise him again.
Franchising Byrd would allow the Bills to try one last time at getting a new deal done. If Byrd truly wants out of Buffalo, the team can trade him away and then get the pick or picks it covets. Byrd’s value would be higher at this point (assuming a trade occurred before the deadline to sign franchise players to long-term deals) as whomever traded for him could negotiate a long-term deal with the talented safety.
If the Bills have any hopes of making the playoffs in 2013, they need their ballhawk Byrd on the field.