Jairus Byrd turns down offer from Bills, isn't expected to be franchise tagged

Rick Stewart

It's looking more and more like the Pro Bowl safety will hit free agency this offseason.

The chances of Jairus Byrd hitting the open market are growing by the day. The Pro Bowl safety rejected a "substantial offer" from the Buffalo Bills, and it is now unlikely that he will re-sign with the team before the start of free agency, as reported by Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550. The team is not expected to use the franchise tag, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

Monday marks the deadline for the Bills to tag Byrd. If the two sides can't reach a deal by then, they have until the beginning of free agency on March 11.

Rapoport reports that the Bills offered Byrd a contract that would have made him the highest paid safety in the league, at least for a portion of the deal. Byrd turned it down, and seems to be eyeing an even bigger payday as one of the top defenders in free agency.

Buffalo tagged Byrd last offseason after the two sides failed to reach long-term contract. That led to a contentious holdout before the safety finally agreed to the deal.

Buffalo Rumblings doesn't like the look of the Bills letting one of their best players walk out the door.

On the surface, that's bad business, letting one of your best players leave without securing any sort of compensation in return. ... If the report is true, and 4 p.m. ET passes [on Monday] without a long-term deal in place for Byrd and without the Bills having applied the franchise tag on him, it simply will look very bad for an organization that typically only makes its pleasant headlines in the winter months.

If Byrd does end up hitting the market, he'll be one of the hottest names available. Here are three teams that could make a serious push at signing him.

Kansas City Chiefs

Kendrick Lewis struggled mightily in Kansas City last season, and the team is expected to let him walk in free agency. That means they're in the market for a free safety. Pairing Byrd with Pro Bowler strong safety Eric Berry would make for a scary secondary. Unfortunately, KC would have to shift some cap room around to make it happen.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are expected to release Thomas DeCoud, and reportedly have strong interest in landing Byrd. They've already dropped cornerback Asante Samuel, so they badly need help in the defensive backfield.

Cleveland Browns

Rapoport reported during the NFL Combine that the Browns are targeting Byrd. Their own Pro Bowl safety, T.J. Ward, is scheduled to hit free agency himself, so they'll need a replacement if he walks. Byrd spent last season working with recently hired Browns coach Mike Pettine, who had a one-year stay in Buffalo as the defensive coordinator.

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