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Jairus Byrd designated with Buffalo Bills' franchise tag

The Buffalo Bills hoped to lock up Jairus Byrd to a long-term contract, but with talks in a holding pattern, they've chosen another path to keeping the talented safety in-house.

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This year's free-agent crop lacks star power, but provides immense depth. Gregg Rosenthal ranks available players. **More ...**'s Ian Rapaport reported the Bills planned to use their franchise tag on the 26-year-old defender, according to a source informed of the team's plans. ESPN first reported the news and the Billslater confirmed the designation, which comes as no surprise. Tim Graham of The Buffalo News reports the tag is of the non-exclusive variety.

Following the release of fellow safety George Wilson last month, the Bills weren't going to allow Byrd to slip away. He's their most talented player in the secondary and one of the few Bills players who had a knack for generating turnovers last season. Byrd was a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie in 2009 and was named as an injury replacement in 2012.

This is an ascending player. Byrd was targeted 21 times last season and pulled down five interceptions without allowing a touchdown. He closed out the year as the NFL's second-ranked safety, per ProFootballFocus, after counting just $1.1 million against the salary cap last season.

Expect the Bills to continue to negotiate with Byrd's people toward a new deal, but the $6.9 million tag -- once it's signed -- would assure that Byrd won't fly away for at least another year.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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