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Bills top safety Jairus Byrd, who has yet to play this season on the franchise tag with foot injuries, is taking every precaution in his return from injury, considering he has no guaranteed money coming to him beyond this season. Some within the Bills organization believe he could have already played this season, and that growing disconnect is creating mounting tension between the sides.
With recent franchise players Henry Melton (Bears) and Anthony Spencer (Cowboys) suffering season-ending injuries as franchise players, the idea of extreme caution is even more at the forefront here as Byrd works back from fascia issues.
Furthermore, some in the Bills' locker room believe the Byrd situation, coupled with a dynamic last season in which some teammates and staff members believed Mario Williams' wrist injury was largely psychosomatic at times, has created a climate of uncertainty about the extent of ailments taking players out of games, according to sources close to the situation. Williams is being monitored closely this season -- he missed time last Sunday and parts of practice this week with what sources said was a mild MCL sprain -- and how the Bills handle the Byrd situation could be telling as they move forward.
This is a young team with a rookie head coach, and it's clear that other players are watching how much breadth Byrd gets as this situation unfolds and the Bills get off to what could be yet another slow start.
Byrd has not asked for a trade and has no intention to do so, sources said, as he cannot sign a new deal until the offseason anyway, given his status as a franchise player. However, trading Byrd, and being proactive on a player who does not seem to have a future in Buffalo (franchising him next year would cost $8.2M, for instance, and would create even more offseason drama with his absences, etc), may be the best way to rid themselves of the distraction and move on, rather than wait for a future compensatory pick when he leaves.
It's also worth noting that Byrd's agent, Eugene Parker, also represents Bills defensive lineman Alex Carrington, a player the Bills very much want to retain. Sources said the Bills had made strong contract offers to Carrington, but were unable to strike a deal before he suffered a quad injury that is expected to end his season. So getting some finality on the Byrd situation might not be a bad idea before Carrington's negations continue (Carrington is in the final year of his rookie deal).
Several teams would have interest in Byrd, GMs said, given his age and production, though the fact he turned down a deal worth $7M a year from Buffalo has some wondering about the cost-effectiveness of being able to keep him long-term. His impending free agency also works against a trade, however.
The Bills have also been playing without their top corner, Stephon Gilmore, who has yet to play this season due to a wrist injury, is not expected back until the Bills meet the Bengals in Week 6. By then, some wonder if Byrd will still be in Buffalo, and if he is, whether or not he will be playing.