Bills GM Buddy Nix said at the NFL Combine that using the franchise tag was "an option." One week later the club has decided to make use of the franchise tag, placing it on impending free agent safety Jairus Byrd.
By using the franchise tag, the Bills essentially have made Byrd a one-year qualifying offer worth $6.916 million. If Byrd were to sign the qualifying offer, that money would be guaranteed. The two sides can also negotiate a long-term contract. The Bills were fortunate in that the franchise tag for a safety is the third-lowest figure among positional franchise tags.
Buffalo had until March 4th at 4 pm to make use of the franchise or transition tag. Byrd was expected to be a big free agent target had he hit the market unprotected on March 12th. It's the first time the Bills have made use of the franchise tag since 2006, when the team tagged CB Nate Clements.
The club disclosed that the designation of the franchise tag was non-exclusive. The non-exclusive franchise tag still allows other clubs the opportunity to sign Byrd to an offer sheet. The Bills have the right to match any offer. If Byrd is signed by another club and Buffalo chooses not to match the Bills would be awarded a pair of first round draft choices from the club that signed Byrd.
The exclusive franchise tag would've prohibited any other club from negotiating with Byrd.
Byrd has started 57 of 62 games played since joining the Bills in 2009 as a second-round (42nd overall) draft selection from Oregon. The two-time Pro Bowl selection ranks tied for third in the NFL since 2009 with 18 interceptions.
Byrd received his second Pro Bowl honor in 2012 in replace of Baltimore FS Ed Reed. He finished the year tied for the AFC-lead with a team-best five interceptions and made 76 tackles (53 solo).
Byrd's 2009 rookie campaign was highlighted by tying for the league lead with nine interceptions which also set a team rookie/first-year player record.