Now that we have a method to determine salaries for safeties based on their expected production as well as an aging curve to estimate that production, we now must determine the term of the agreement the Bills should offer Jairus Byrd.
The NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, as negotiated before the 2011 season, doesn’t explicitly put much restriction on the length of a free agent’s contract.
However, portions of contracts extending beyond the end of the “Final League Year” (2020, as definited by the CBA) may count towards the 2019 and 2020 team salary. No player is currently contracted beyond 2019 (according to Spotrac.com), probably because the salary cap figures for 2019 and 2020 are not yet known. (Annual salary caps are determined based on a formula determined by the CBA, it can be found here: NFL CBA.)
Ten safeties signed new contracts for more than one year this offseason (Goldson, Quin, Moore, Reed, L. Landry, Chung, Huff, Wilson, D. Landry, and Sanford). Those players will be just over 29 years old next season, on average, and signed for an average length of 3.5 years. However, the average age of the players at the time when the contracts expire is more telling. Six of the ten players will be either 32 or 33 once these deals expire.
Jairus Byrd won’t be 32 until 2018. Keeping him for that long would require a six year deal. Only Kyle Williams and Mario Williams have contracts that long. Kyle signed before the 2011 season and Mario signed before the 2012 season. Could Byrd be the third six-year deal for the Bills defense in consecutive seasons?
If we compare Byrd’s expected production (as measured by EPA+ again) to the top safeties over the past six years, we can get an idea of the type of player the Bills might get every season. The graph below compares Byrd’s expected production level to the average production needed to be a top-five or top-ten safety in the NFL.
Based on the graph above, Byrd should be a top-ten safety through the 2017 season. That would equate to a five-year contract, not unlike Goldson, Quin, and Moore. If Byrd is playing better in 2017 than the regression currently estimates, he could earn himself another large contract and become the next Ed Reed, who was a top-fifteen safety at 34 years old.
A five year deal for Byrd should be worth somewhere around $32.3 million to Byrd (based on the table in the last post). That’s a total cap hit amount, not accounting for signing bonuses, workout bonuses, and other incentives. Would it be enough?
That might be a hard sell, since Dashon Goldson signed a five-year agreement worth $41.25 million earlier this spring. It seems that the Buccaneers overpaid quite a bit for a player with similar production as Byrd but is two years older. Buffalo’s safety is undoubtedly looking for more.
Next time, we’ll analyze how much the team will need Jairus Byrd going forward.