A Scout's Take on Jairus Byrd and the Use of Free Agency

Bob FoxContributor IFebruary 15, 2014

Nov 17, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd (31) celebrates his first half interception against the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

There was big news this week about the Green Bay Packers, as the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that the team will be active in free agency this year.

That news goes against the usual modus operandi of general manager Ted Thompson, who normally shies away from dipping his toes in the free-agency water.

At least in pure free agency. Thompson does sign a number of street or rookie free agents, but doesn't like to go for the big names very often. The biggest splash Thompson ever made in free agency was in 2006, when he signed five free agents, including defensive back Charles Woodson and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett.

Woodson and Pickett went on to have some great years in Green Bay. Woodson went to four Pro Bowls and in 2009 was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. No. 21 also had 38 interceptions (nine returned for touchdowns), 11.5 sacks, forced 15 fumbles and recovered six others (one for a touchdown) in seven years in Green Bay.

Pickett is still a Packer, although he will be himself a free agent next month. Pickett has been a solid run-stuffer in his eight years in Green Bay.

Bottom line, both Woodson and Pickett were instrumental in the Packers winning Super Bowl XLV.

Based on Rapoport's report about Thompson and the Packers being active in free agency, I wanted to get an opinion from scout Chris Landry, as I was once again able to talk to him on The Steve Duemig Show yesterday.

The first free agent I asked Landry about is safety Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills, who would be an excellent addition to any team in the NFL, but particularly for the Packers because of the putrid play at their safety position in 2013.

Landry gave his thoughts on where Byrd might end up as a free agent.

I think he'll end up in Buffalo. I thinks that's where he will end up being. He is a really good cover guy at safety. He's big-time playmaker.  There is no doubt that the Bills would be crazy to let him out. I think they need to get a deal done with him. To tag him again for the second year, they can afford to do it, but it's just not real prudent for them to do it. He's really a big-time player. And I expect him to be with them again. If not, certainly a number of teams, including the Packers would probably be interested.


If Byrd isn't on the market, the Packers would have to look at players like T.J. Ward of the Cleveland Browns or Chris Clemons of the Miami Dolphins at the safety position in free agency. In this piece earlier this month, I talked about Byrd, Ward and Clemons, as well as some top safeties in the draft.

Landry then expounded his thoughts on how free agency should really be used in the NFL.

Free agency is very important to supplement your roster. There has never been one team that's built their roster through free agency and been successful. Not one. It doesn't happen. Seattle...predominantly through the draft, but there were some key guys in free agency. Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch was a trade guy, (Cliff) Avril. And a few more. Those are important. We know what Reggie White meant (to the Packers). And maybe not signing Reggie back in the day then maybe they (the Packers) don't get over the top. So it's really important. But keep in mind, that you've got to build through the draft. The draft is even more important because it's the only cost-effective way of building your roster.


Thompson was part of the pro personnel department when the Packers traded for quarterback Brett Favre in 1992 and signed White in 1993. He headed the department when the Packers traded for players like tight end Keith Jackson and safety Eugene Robinson, plus signed other players in free agency like defensive end Sean Jones, wide receiver Don Beebe, defensive tackle Santana Dotson and wide receiver/kick returner Desmond Howard.

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

So Thompson does know that free agency and trades can play a big part in supplementing a roster. But he also knows that a roster has to be built primarily through the draft. And his track record in Green Bay since taking over the front office in 2005 shows that.

Since 2006, the year Thompson hired Mike McCarthy to become the head coach of the Packers, the team has been 82-45-1 in the regular season, been to the playoffs six times, won four NFC North titles and won a Super Bowl.

Landry went further in comparing free agency versus building a roster through the draft.

Let me tell you something. In free agency, you pay great money for good players, and obscene money for great players. You overpay in free agency. In the draft, you get the best value that you can. That's why the teams that win, draft the best and supplement with free agency. Free agency is all about supply and demand.