Last year, the Bills entered the season with a couple of high-profile players entering the final seasons of their contracts: quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and receiver Stevie Johnson. This year, the guys moving toward free agency have less name recognition, but could be as important to making the team more and more competitive in the future.
Taken nine picks apart in round two of the 2009 draft, left guard Andy Levitre and safety Jairus Byrd (pictured) will hit the open market simultaneously, next March. Per Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News, the Bills could try to sign one or both players before the season opens on September 9.
If the Bills sign one, they can use the franchise tag on the other. But because guards don’t have their own franchise-tag category, it takes elite tackle money to use the tag on Levitre.
So the smart move could be to sign Levitre and tag Byrd.
Or maybe the smartest move would be to sign both. Doing it before the season shifts the injury risk to the team. For now, it’s on the players. But if they stay healthy and become more effective, their value will increase.