With the trade deadline coming up next Tuesday, rumors are seemingly coming out of the woodwork as experts try to "place" potential trade candidates and trade partners. Traditionally the trade deadline comes and goes without much fanfare though, as trades are hard to throw together. However, each rumor should be investigated and one such rumor is in relation to Buffalo Bills safety, Jairus Byrd, potentially making his way to Cincinnati.
Byrd was franchise tagged this past offseason in Buffalo as a key playmaker on the back end of the defense. Many believe the talented safety is looking for a change of scenery after being tagged and, presumably, not fitting the direction the Bills are looking to go with their team and new head coach, Doug Marrone. Byrd dealt with some early injuries to begin this season and wants to be the highest-paid safety in the game, but he has the ability to potentially warrant that sort of compensation. So, why not Cincinnati?
Why This Trade Makes Sense
- The Bengals are weak in the secondary and have needed a safety forever.
Losing cornerback Leon Hall to a torn Achilles really hurts this defense. He was Cincinnati's top corner in what was, arguably, the Bengals' greatest defensive weakness... their secondary. While Byrd wouldn't replace Hall, he would fill in admirably at safety, which has been a problem area for the Bengals' defense for years. Byrd would be an instant upgrade over any safety on Cincinnati's roster who would play beside Reggie Nelson and would bring 316 tackles, 18 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles and two touchdowns that he has accumulated in his four-year career (this is currently his fifth season). That sort of production is unheard of for a Bengals safety. Also, we should remember that those stats were earned playing for the Bills defense, which isn't exactly the quality of what the Bengals currently field.
- The Bengals have money.
I've heard this point made on more than one occasion and it really isn't that simple, but is worth mentioning. The Bengals have a good chunk of cap space and are looking to win now while working to maintain their success in the future. Byrd is only 27-years old and is a worthwhile investment, but part of the reason he wants out of Buffalo is because he wants to be the highest-paid safety. That sort of negotiation doesn't sound like something owner Mike Brown would be excited about dealing with. Plus, while Cincinnati does have some money to work with, they are planning on extending receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton (I guess you could say performance withstanding with Dalton?) like they did with defensive tackle Geno Atkins this past offseason. Defensive end Michael Johnson is also looking to get paid after being franchise tagged this past season with Byrd. I personally would love to see Johnson come back, because he has been a difference-maker this season, but Green and Dalton are going to command big money. Green is a superstar and Dalton has been great with an entire season to earn even more praise. The thought is that Cincinnati only has enough cap space to re-sign Green and Dalton, anyway, letting Johnson walk, so why would they suddenly try to bring in Byrd who is demanding one of the highest defensive salaries in the game? It is true that the Bengals have money to work with, and it does make Cincinnati a potential landing spot, but I'm skeptical.
- Bengals are looking for a Super Bowl.
Byrd fills a necessary position spot and the Bengals, in theory and depending on their strategy, have the cash to pay him, but even more important than that, he would provide Cincinnati with potentially the defensive playmaker they need to officially take the next step into talk as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Byrd has enough talent to be a big-time playmaker in Cincinnati with defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer maximizing his ability. It would be exciting to have someone with his upside back there.
Why it Doesn't
- Money invested elsewhere.
As I talked about above, just because the Bengals have money, doesn't mean they are looking for a way to spend it. To my knowledge, they already have a plan of re-signing Green and Dalton before they hit contract years. With Johnson playing well, I hope he factors into those discussions and plans. If Cincinnati is looking to sign Dalton, Green and potentially Johnson, that cap space disappears quickly.
- It's Mike Brown.
Cincinnati fans have hated on Brown for years as the Bengals didn't pursue what looked to be favorable fits between them and top free agent talent. This is no different. While Byrd makes sense from a football standpoint, Brown isn't one to make the splashy move. Even the Carson Palmer trade a couple years ago only occurred because then former and now current Bengals coach, Hue Jackson, was coaching the Raiders. The trade happened because Jackson and Brown knew each other and Brown was willing to work to make a deal with a good friend. Those talks may not have gone anywhere though without that previous relationship. Brown simply isn't one to make trades near the trade deadline no matter how appealing a player may look on paper. Heck, the Bengals have hardly ever even traded around during the draft as their picks are incredibly valuable to them. Seeing how trading for Byrd in the first place would probably involve some valuable draft picks and then would mean a long negotiation over Byrd's new contract, I see Brown avoiding this all together.
This trade really does make some sense, but it isn't really the "Bengal's way". They have the cap, in theory, to make the trade and sign the young, talented safety to a long-term deal while filling a desperate need that they have failed to address in recent years. Byrd would potentially shore up the weakest part of the Bengals defense in the process. However, this doesn't seem like a move Mike Brown would pursue. This isn't just about Byrd, but any players heading into the trade deadline. The Bengals are more than willing to take what comes to them and don't traditionally trade picks or take risks on big-name, expensive players, particularly when you look at just a couple of the names they are looking to re-sign/should re-sign at season's end. Bengals fans should not get too excited, but the potential of Byrd is something that is interesting to consider, yet more likely on Madden.
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