Dec 22, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd (31) looks to make a tackle on Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas (33) at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Byrd Must Have Wanted Out – The Optimist’s Perspective.

The biggest moment for the Buffalo Bills in last week’s draft was not the trade up to select Sammy Watkins but rather the Doug Whaley interview that followed.

In Whaley’s words, the trade proved valuable because it was worth a “low No.1 that we’ll be giving up next year.” Translated, Whaley was sending a message to the players, coaches, fans and league at large that he feels the Bills are playoff-bound in 2014-15.

That’s a huge statement from an organization that has missed the playoffs the last 14 seasons. Ever since hearing it, Bills fans have been jumping in and out of conversations about the Bills’ “win-now” move and mentality.

It sounds and feels good. The Bills decision to cut ties with Stevie Johnson doesn’t fly in the face of that mentality. Keeping CJ Spiller, signing Mike Williams and trading for Bryce Brown all back it up. The only blemish in the armor of the Bills’ win-now mentality is the decision to let Jarius Byrd walk.

Byrd has elite ability in the NFL. He made countless good plays in run defense and pass coverage. He had a way of finding footballs for interceptions on good and bad throws from QBs. His ball-hawking and toughness will be dearly missed this year.

Yes, Byrd wanted big money and the Bills didn’t feel his position was necessarily worth the dime. Still, if the Bills are in win-now mode, don’t you have to pay one of you very few elite players? Don’t you realize that you’ll miss his interceptions next year? Do the Bills really believe their secondary can win-now without Byrd? If I were a member of the Bills’ front office and I knew it was a must-win year in 2014, I’d have paid Byrd.

Still, maybe it was as simple as Byrd refusing to be here any longer. The optimistic Bills fan in me who has survived the past 14 seasons (and will always survive) has decided to believe just that. If Whaley and Brandon put good contracts in front of Byrd and it became clear that there was no realistic amount of money that would make Byrd happy, then what were they to do?

Teams need elite players to win in this league. But, teams also need players who want to be there, who invest themselves entirely to the team and the idea of winning. If Byrd was only the former, then it was his time to go.

Following an exciting draft weekend, the optimist in me chooses to believe the Bills’ hands were tied withByrd. And, as competitive souls, Whaley, Marrone and Brandon decided it was time to “win-now” with or without him.

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  • NWBill

    I think every year is a “must-win” year in the NFL. What do teams do, take whole seasons off? From what I saw, Byrd could have signed a very lucrative contract with the Bills, and stayed here ….if he wanted. He obviously didn’t want to. Are the Bills supposed to crash their salary cap for one, two, or three elite players? How do you grow a team that way, or win games that way? The more you win, the more money you can pay high talent. But, you have to WIN first; which means good drafts, and not hanging a couple of contracts around your neck so you aren’t flexible when a CJ Spiller or someone like that comes along. I don’t understand people who say we should have paid Byrd what he wanted; if YOU were Byrd, and you REALLY wanted to be on a winning team, would YOU respect a team that threw so much money at you that they couldn’t do much else talent-wise? What good does a max contract do you, when you’re 6-10 year after year?

    The Bills have, for the first time in a very long time, the combination of a good management team, a good coaching staff, great talent scouting, and a few very decent drafts in a row to build a great foundation.

    Stifle your “do anything to win NOW” mentality; the great teams do WHAT MAKES SENSE TO WIN NOW ….all you have to do is look at the great, winning teams in the league.

    The Bills are coming ….it’s not a question of IF (not any more) …. it’s a question of WHEN.