Don’t Blame Byrd or the Bills, Blame the Franchise Tag

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Updated: July 15, 2013
Philadelphia Eagles v Buffalo Bills

So the deadline has come and gone, let me double check my sources [logs on to profootballtalk.com], and nope, the Buffalo Bills and Jairus Byrd failed to reach an agreement. There’s been plenty of blame to go around, including the two principles, Bills contract negotiator Jim Overdorf, and Byrd agent Eugene Parker.

That blame’s been misplaced, because for the most part all parties are approaching the situation rationally. The market value of Jairus Byrd has been clearly set with the Goldson and Weddle contracts, despite the fact that Byrd is probably a better player than both.

Further, Byrd’s camp is rightfully not fond of the franchise tag, because while fully guaranteed, it offers nothing beyond the one year. Were the safety to tear an ACL, he would lose millions in guaranteed money. Revis learned that hard way this past season. Goldson’s contract pays him 18 million, about 11 more than Byrd would be guaranteed. And remember, guaranteed money is the number to focus on with player contracts.

On the other side of the non existent negotiating table, the Bills aren’t interested in paying a safety that much, or else they would have reached a long term deal already. While they have a little bit of cap space, implications of a potential deal would reach beyond this year. With Wood and Spiller deals on the horizon, and several large contracts already on the books, they need to thing long and hard before committing that type of money to a defensive back.

With both sides coming from reasonable, self interested positions, why the ugly mess? The franchise tag. The franchise tag is a weird CBA mechanism unlike any other quirk in American sports business. It allows teams to gain artificial leverage over players by denying them the opportunity to get paid market value. Teams only franchise players as either a way to extend a negotiating period (like in Drew Brees’s case), or if the tag value offers a significant discount over what the player costs.

That is the situation in Buffalo. Byrd’s tag price is substantially lower than the contracts of two players he’s the superior of. Without the tag, the situation would be resolved. Instead, we’re left with this awkward mexican standoff that hurts Byrd and hurts the Bills. The franchise tag creates more problems than it solves and needs to go.

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