Jairus Byrd #31 FS, Buffalo Bills
When Barry Bonds was in the midst of his steroid stupor, MLB pitchers strategically began walking him for the opportunity to face the next hitter in the San Francisco Giants lineup. The logic was simple enough for even the most casual baseball fan to understand. The risk of pitching to Bonds had exceeded to value of offering the Giants a free base. It became the equivalent of handing money to the bully as a preemptive strike as to not go through the hassle of him attempting to take it with force.
A very similar function is happening in the NFL but with much less fanfare. We all remember Deion Sanders, in his prime, taking half the field away from the offense. Teams decided to just not throw to Deion’s side of the field. To a lesser extent, (although listening to the New York media you would think an even greater) Darrell Revis has had a similar effect on offensive play calling in recent years. What the casual fan has not realized is a Free Safety in Buffalo that has built a reputation to stay away from. Jairus Byrd was the 42nd pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and afforded the Bills the ability to trade their 2008 FS, Ko Simpson, a week before the ’09 season started. The son of a former 2-time Pro Bowler Gil Byrd, Jairus impacted the league almost immediately.
Even though Byrd had a solid first three seasons, 2012 was by far his best. Already having a reputation to avoid throwing at him, the QBs in the NFL almost completely shut off the spiget. According to Pro Football Focus, Jairus Byrd played 1047 snaps for the Bills last year and was thrown at 21 times. Need to repeat that… twenty one times! By comparison Eric Weddle (the best market comparison and 2nd highest paid FS in the NFL) was thrown at 34 times allowing 2 touchdowns against 3 interceptions. Byrd did not allow an interception and picked off 5 passes. Almost one quarter of the time teams threw at Byrd, he converted the opportunity into a turnover. No wonder teams have decided to penalty box throwing at him.
Analysis of Byrd’s future contract value starts and ends with Weddle. Even though Dashon Goldson just signed the highest contract for FS last year, it was a terrible value for the Bucanneers as they will soon find out that he can’t hold a flame to Weddle or Byrd.. As we can see Byrd minimally should be in the ballpark of Weddle’s record breaking 5 year $40mm signed just prior to the 2011 season. Based upon his consistency and the progressively more respect that he has gained from the league, my argument is that he should exceed that contract. The Bills decided to use their franchise tag on Byrd this season, which will make him a 27 year old free agent after this season.
Estimated New Contract: 5 years, $43mm