The unexpected growth of the upcoming season's salary cap has created an opportunity for franchises pushing up against the cap to squeeze their most expensive stars in under the threshold. Rather than slap prized safety Jairius Byrd with a franchise tag for the second season in a row, the Buffalo Bills decided on Wednesday to head in another direction when they inked safety Aaron Williams to a four-year $26 million salary.
A second round draft pick of the Bills in 2011, Williams is a converted strong safety who made the transition from cornerback last season.
The Bills entered the 2014 league year with $25.667 million in cap space and the cap would have guaranteed Byrd a $6.916 million salary in 2014. Byrd wasn't as renowned as his peers because the Bills were rarely a factor in the playoff race in recent years, but he has excelled defending the pass.
In 2013, per Pro Football Focus’ game charting, Byrd was targeted 22 times on 359 passing snaps played. He gave up a ridiculously low 83 total yards (51 after the catch) in just 11 receptions, which is especially impressive for a player who defends the deep half a great deal of the time. Byrd gave up just one touchdown and intercepted four passes. No qualifying safety — including those who play in the box most of the time — gave up fewer total yards. In 2012, Byrd was targeted 21 times in 561 passing snaps, allowing 16 receptions for 156 yards (76 of those after the catch), no touchdowns, and five picks.
This doesn't reflect on Byrd's value to the Bills' defensive scheme, but teams are about to start spending freely in the coming days and weeks, so Byrd will get his payday somewhere. it probably won't be in Buffalo though.