- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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When the Buffalo Bills decided not to assign safety Jairus Byrd with the franchise tag Monday, the immediate reaction was along these lines: How could the Bills just let their three-time Pro Bowler walk?
In an interview Tuesday with the Toronto Sun's John Kryk, general manager Doug Whaley explained his thinking in the decision.
"I think it just sets up a more amicable negotiation, because last year -- I wouldn't say it was contentious, but as a player you always want to go out and see your true value, and we restricted that," Whaley told Kryk. "So this year we said, 'For the betterment of the Buffalo Bills, and to show you more or less good faith, we're not going to use that option to restrict you from hitting the market. Let's try to go full bore, with both of us focused on trying to get a deal done.'"
The Bills have exclusive negotiating rights with Byrd until Saturday, when other NFL teams can officially start talks with Byrd. Tuesday is the first day other teams can complete a contract with Byrd, who is the top safety on the free-agent market.
If the Bills had tagged Byrd, it would have cost them $8.4 million against their salary cap. Once Byrd signed the tender (and once the 2014 league year began on March 13) the Bills could have traded Byrd. Still, Whaley didn't think the chances of a trade were strong enough to warrant tagging Byrd.
"There are a lot of moving parts to doing that. If you try to franchise him and trade him, then you've got to find somebody that's going to give you the proper compensation, and then you have to have them feeling confident enough to then sign him," Whaley said. "The best path for the Buffalo Bills was not to take that chance."
Byrd told ESPN this week that he remains open to a deal with the Bills but is "excited" to hit the open market for the first time in his career.
"He has a value (to us), and they have a value of what his camp thinks he's worth, and we're trying to meet in the middle and make it comfortable for both sides," Whaley said. "Do you hate to lose him for nothing? Yes."