Here are some initial thoughts on Sunday morning's news:
Long time coming: This development is hardly a surprise in what has become a headache for the Bills and Byrd since February, when Byrd was assigned the franchise tender. General manager Doug Whaley told veteran NFL writer Dan Pompei as recently as last week that the Bills "have not discussed trading him," echoing similar comments from CEO Russ Brandon on WGR 550 last month. The reality is, until a trade was close, there was no benefit for the team to admit they were trying to move him. Now that the news is out, it suggests a deal will happen soon.
What's the precedent? Big-name players like Byrd are not often traded mid-season. The best recent example would be Carson Palmer, who effectively retired from the Cincinnati Bengals and was placed on the reserve/did not report list at the start of 2011 training camp. Like the Bills, the Bengals at first said they would not trade Palmer. But then, in October, the Raiders needed a quarterback, and gave up a first-round pick for Palmer. In comparison to Byrd, that's unlikely to happen. A safety will never be valued as much as a quarterback, and while Byrd is younger than Palmer was when he was traded, Palmer had four years left on his deal. Byrd will be a free-agent after this season. That could push his value down; the Bills may only be able to receive a mid-round pick in return.
Dead money for Bills: When Byrd signed his one-year franchise tender, he received a guaranteed base salary of $6.916 million, paid over 17 weekly checks of $406,823. Since Byrd has missed five games, the Bills have already paid him $2.034 million, including Thursday night, when Byrd said he was ready to play but head coach Doug Marrone made the decision to keep him inactive. That money is gone.
Manuel angle: The Bills lost their starting quarterback, EJ Manuel, to a sprained LCL on Thursday night, and the expectation is he will miss the next several weeks. Buffalo faces a tough stretch ahead, as they host the Bengals (2-2), travel to play the Dolphins (3-1) and Saints (4-0), and then return home to face the Chiefs (4-0). They are expected to sign a free-agent quarterback who could start some or all of those games, a nearly impossible situation for whomever arrives in Buffalo. The Bills likely realize that their 2-3 record could easily turn into a 2-7 record by early November, so getting their Pro Bowl safety back on the field may not have much of an impact on the season as a whole. That, coupled with the trade deadline approaching on Oct. 29 may play a part in the Bills' decision to move Byrd now.