The deadline has come and gone for the Buffalo Bills to strike a long-term deal with franchised safety Jairus Byrd, and the two sides have failed to come to an agreement within the given amount of time.
Where did it all go wrong? What's next for the two sides? You really have to look at it from both the team and player's perspectives to try and understand why nothing was accomplished Monday.
Rarely is a simple narrative the only story behind contract negotiations that have gone awry. In this case, there weren't many contract negotiations to speak of. What was the big difference between the sides? Using logic from the point of view of each side, you can start to glean what may have happened.
What went wrong?
When you look at it from the angle of the team, you can make a lot of sense out of why a long-term deal was not reached with their franchised safety.
First and foremost, the expectations of the franchise aren't necessarily high right now for 2013. They have a lot of new faces: a new head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, quarterback and much more. With all of that turnover from one year to the next, it's safe to say the Bills aren't really sure what will come of the 2013 season. They're hopeful, but not expecting a big jump in the win category.
Due to that ambiguity and lack of expectation, the Bills are likely quite hesitant to re-sign a player like Byrd to the safety of long-term, guaranteed contract. Byrd excelled in Dave Wannstedt's vanilla 4-3 defense last year. Will he do the same in Mike Pettine's brand new, aggressive scheme?
While you can argue that Byrd likely would be able to succeed due to him having played in three different defenses over his first four seasons, it's not a given. That may also have made the Bills back off the idea on making him the top paid free safety in the NFL.
There's also the argument, which some may disagree with (including yours truly), that safety just isn't a position worth investing a lot of guaranteed money in to.
In contrast, the incentives for Byrd to do a long-term deal were lacking and that's why the two sides remain apart.
While it's an incredibly scary proposition to go in to a year of the injury-plagued NFL without the security of a long-term contract, it's a step Byrd was willing to take without the Bills sending an offer he and his agent Eugene Parker deemed worthy.
The July 15 deadline really was the only leverage play Byrd's camp had. In most franchise tag cases the team really does have the upper-hand in the leverage game, and that's only enhanced once the long-term deal deadline passes.
There's also another angle to consider. What if Byrd simply doesn't want to re-sign long-term in Buffalo? Perhaps that's why he's asking for top-of-the-line money, knowing the Bills likely wouldn't cave to those demands.
All Byrd has known since being in the NFL is losing and constant turnover of coaching staffs. Knowing the window for most players in the league isn't that big, perhaps Byrd looked at this as his one big shot to sign with a contender.
Regardless if he does or does not want to be with the Bills long-term, fans will likely see Byrd in a Buffalo uniform in 2013. The biggest question is when that will be.
Starting with Byrd first, it's rather simple. It's very likely Byrd will not want to go through the same song and dance next off-season.
Rather than sitting out the majority of the season, the safety and his agent could try to use that leverage to attempt to facilitate a one-year agreement that benefits them in a certain way. Byrd and Parker will likely push to sign a deal with language to prevent the Bills from assigning either the franchise or transition tag on the player after the 2013 season.
The two sides, if they so choose, could even work it in to the initial franchise tag tender that has yet to be signed. At this point in time because Byrd hasn't signed his tender, he is not subject to any fines for missing training camp or games.
Byrd's camp knows what the Bills have at free safety without him. It's either they use Aaron Williams, who is playing safety for the first time in his life, or they go with fourth-round rookie Duke Williams. No matter which they side with, the drop-off will likely be humongous. They may attempt to play up that fear angle with the Bills.
If Byrd is really dedicated to making the Bills know he means business, he could always sit out until after Week 10 of the regular season and then sign his franchise tag at the last minute. This would give him an accrued season in the NFL, and allow him to hit the free agent market in 2014 as long as the Bills don't use the franchise tag on him once more.
From the Bills' perspective, it's also quite simple.
They can sit back and wait for Byrd and Parker to come to them to either negotiate a one-year deal or to sign his original franchise tag tender. At this point, the Bills have all the leverage in a nothing-to-lose type of season under a first-year head coach.
Without Byrd at camp, they lose an elite player on their defense. However, it also gives them ample opportunity to see exactly what they have behind him by giving first-team repetitions to Williams and Williams.
At this point, the player has more to lose by not signing the one-year agreement. They miss out on a portion of their guaranteed money, they lose the battle of public perception by holding out and they keep themselves off the field in what could be one of the most important years of their career.
The Bills can once again use the franchise tag on Byrd in 2014 before they must officially let him hit unrestricted free agency in the 2015 off-season if they so choose. On the surface, it doesn't appear the team has any real incentive to put in language to prevent a second franchise tag within the framework of their one-year agreement in 2013.
They know Byrd will be in a Bills uniform at some point during the season. All the pressure is on Byrd and what he and his agent elect to do next. Until that time, it's more of the wait-and-see game for the fans hoping for good news about one of the team's best players.