Nix: Franchise tag an option for Byrd, Levitre


Bills GM Buddy Nix is going to take the time with his scouting department to get a better handle on the 300-plus prospects gathered in Indianapolis this week. The NFL Combine is also a time to begin the process of hammering out new contracts for Buffalo's prospective free agents that the club would like to re-sign. Nix said the team's cap situation is healthy and the Bills plan to make every effort to re-sign the likes of Jairus Byrd and Andy Levitre.

Byrd and Levitre are coming off successful individual seasons. The Bills free safety again led the team in interceptions and forced fumbles and was tied for the team lead in fumble recoveries. He was named an injury replacement for the AFC in the Pro Bowl.

Levitre was again an iron man on Buffalo's offensive line playing in all 16 games despite a bothersome knee that required a scope at season's end. The Bills' starting left guard has not missed a game in his four-year career.

Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon confirmed to that there are meetings set up with the agents for both Byrd and Levitre.

"We've got quite a few UFAs coming up and Jim Overdorf and I will spend quite a bit of time together and we'll set up meetings over the course of the next three days and meet with everybody that's on our roster that's up for free agency," said Brandon. "Obviously we'll spend time with representation from both of those parties, but we'll spend time will all of the UFAs we have and we'll see what kind of progress we can make. It's like any negotiation and any deal. It's always better when you're looking across the table from one another."

"I think it's huge," he said. "I think you can make a lot of progress here because you sit down in a relaxed atmosphere. Most of all the other stuff is done by phone before you get here and after. This is a chance to look eye to eye with these guys and let them know what you think and find out what they're thinking."

When asked if the franchise or transition tags are in play should they be necessary for the likes of Byrd and Levitre, Nix said they were.

"Absolutely it's an option," Nix told "It's part of the process and part of the rule and if it comes to that, we'd rather not, but if it comes to that we'll take advantage of it."

The projected franchise tag for the safety position is $6.79M. For guard it's a collective tag on all offensive linemen. Knowing the offensive tackle position is part of that equation the figure is steep at $9.66M. Projected transition tags are $5.89M and $8.96M at those two positions.

The Bills have not made use of the franchise tag since 2006, when former first-round pick Nate Clements was given the franchise tag.

Nix said re-signing Byrd and Levitre is the goal. Outside observers wonder if that can be done along with signing an entire draft class while still being a player in free agency. Buffalo's general manager said the organization can make it work.

"We're in pretty good shape and we've got cap space even though I read sometimes that we're in trouble," said Nix. "We're going to be a player probably in free agency at some point. It may not be the first day or two, but we'll be looking for guys that can come in and help us and take some pressure off the draft. We think we can be active and go places."

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