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Henry Melton's injury shows risk Jairus Byrd faces upon return

Jairus Byrd
Bills safety Jairus Byrd is playing under a one-year contract as the team's franchise player. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News file photo)

By Jay Skurski

Exhibit A as to why NFL players hate the franchise tag can be seen in Chicago, where Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on Sunday night against Pittsburgh, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

Melton, 26, was playing this season on a one-year contract as the Bears' franchise player, a designation that pays him a guaranteed $8.45 million as a defensive tackle. Melton's in his fifth year in the NFL, and coming off his first Pro Bowl season. He's entering the prime of his career, but his earning power for what should be the biggest contract of his life is now significantly in question because of a serious injury.

Melton just happens to be the same age and have the same amount of professional experience as Byrd, who has two Pro Bowl appearances, including last season. Byrd, who is signed to a one-year contract as the Bills' franchise player, is making $6.916 million.

He has yet to play in a game this season because of plantar fasciitis in both feet, but was upgraded last week from doubtful to questionable before the game against the New York Jets, an indication he could be getting close to a return. Coach Doug Marrone has said Byrd continues to work hard on getting back in the lineup.

When he does return, he'll face the same injury risk as Melton -- the greatest fear for every player (and agent) working under the franchise tag.


Doug Marrone | Jairus Byrd
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |