Buffalo reached an agreement with safety Aaron Williams on Wednesday morning, signing a four-year, $26 million contract with $14.625 guaranteed. Williams did not do much as a corner over his first two seasons in the league out of the University of Texas, but after moving to safety in training camp, Williams became a force.
In 2013, Williams racked up 82 tackles, four interceptions and a forced fumble lined up across from Byrd to earn his money. Former Texas teammate Emmanuel Acho expressed his feelings on the deal.
Huh? let me hold some! "@ProFootballTalk, Bills S Aaron Williams' extension is 4 yrs, $26M. $14.625M guaranteed. $6.5M signing bonus."— Emmanuel Acho (@thEMANacho) March 5, 2014
However, the bigger story is what the money means for Byrd. Regarded as the best player available in free agency, Byrd is set to cash in with a huge contract. The former Oregon Ducks star was reported to have turned down a contract offer by Buffalo which would have made him the highest-paid safety in NFL history. Clearly, Byrd believes he will get even more money on the open market.
SB Nation NFL
SB Nation NFL
Buffalo CEO Russ Brandon says the deal will not affect signing Byrd, but that is hard to believe. The Bills would be committing a boatload of money to the safety position should they offer a contract suitable to Byrd, something that doesn't make sense in the scope of the salary cap.
Per Pro Football Focus, Byrd was ranked as the eighth best safety in football last season, coming in behind names such as Eric Berry and fellow free-agent T.J. Ward. In 2012, Byrd ranked second behind only Eric Weddle. Williams ranked 28th overall in 2013.
Over at SB Nation blog Buffalo Rumblings, Brian Galliford talks about the deal and it's many facets:
The move locks up half of a very good safety duo for the foreseeable future, though when Byrd leaves for greener pastures, the team will be back in the hunt for a running mate for Williams. This also seems like a fairly hefty deal to give to a player that has missed at least two games (14 in total over three seasons) due to injury.
Free agency is set to begin Tuesday, March 11. However, free agents to be can begin negotiating with other teams on Saturday.