Why the Washington Redskins Should Sign Jairus Byrd in Free Agency

Marcel Davis@@Mar_CelDavis24Correspondent IMarch 6, 2014

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 17:  Jairus Byrd #31 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates intercepting a pass against the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 17, 2013 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

In light of the Washington Redskins franchising their top free agent, pass-rusher Brian Orakpo, the Skins can now turn their attention to perhaps the NFL's top free agent, safety Jairus Byrd.

A former standout of the Buffalo Bills, who surprisingly wasn't given the franchise tag, Byrd could be an elixir to what's ailed Washington's porous defense.

Once renown for its defense, Washington reached new lows under the direction of Mike Shanahan.

From 2000 to 2009, the Skins had seven seasons in which they owned a top-10 defense in yards allowed per game, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.

In contrast, under Shanahan, Washington finished 13th, 18th, 28th and 31st in this category.

While coaching isn't solely to blame for this downward trend, it should be noted that Shanahan had a large hand in the personnel decisions that put this defense on the gridiron.

For teams without a great collection of talent on defense, like Washington, turnovers have to be the lifeline of the defense.

In the lone season the Skins made the playoffs under Shanahan, this was the case. In 2012, Washington was fourth in the NFC in takeaways.

Still in need of upgrades for their defense, the Redskins will have to re-enact this formula if they're to bounce back from a 3-13 season in which they finished 11th in the NFC in takeaways.

Enter Byrd.

In five seasons with Buffalo, Byrd displayed the type of playmaking ability that could turn around this stat for the Redskins.

In 73 career games, Byrd has tallied 22 interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.

Already featuring a top-10 offense in the two seasons with Robert Griffin III at quarterback, an opportunistic defense—and a healthy Griffin—is all that stands between the Redskins and an entrenched spot in the playoff conversation next season.

Case and point, the New England Patriots.

Similarly boasting a top offense, the Patriots negated a defensive unit that hadn't finished better than 25th in yards allowed the past four seasons by garnering takeaways.

New England has finished first in takeaways in the AFC three of the last four seasons.

With a secondary potentially featuring the likes of Byrd, DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson—remember, his 13 interceptions in 2011 at NC State were the second-most in FBS history—Washington would well be on its way to building a defense capable of emulating such success.

Question is, how much would it cost Washington to make this secondary a reality?

Judging from what NFL.com's Ian Rapoport has tweeted, Byrd is looking for a deal that will make him the NFL's highest paid safety.

According to Sportrac.com, the top annual salary for a safety belongs to Eric Berry, at $8.34 million per year.

Considering Orakpo's franchise tag will cost the Redskins $11.45 million, paying Byrd such a salary would handcuff Washington in free agency.

While the Skins could elect to go after a lesser safety, like T.J. Ward or Donte Whitner, in order to save money, these players don't compare to Byrd.

Ward, while productive in 2013, has been marred by inconsistency in his career.

After registering 123 tackles and two interceptions as a rookie in 2010, Ward only managed to accumulate 107 tackles and one interception the following two seasons.

Similar to Ward, Whitner is more of an enforcer than playmaker. In fact, if not for an improvement on this front in 2013, you could consider Whitner an outright sieve when it comes to coverage.

In an interview with Eric Branch of SFGate.com, Whitner relayed the critique 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had for his coverage skills.

"This is part of your game that you suck at," Fangio said, according to Whitner.

Minus a safety that could complement their shortcomings in coverage, Washington doesn't seem to be a fit for either player.

Factor in the lack of impact safeties available to Washington in the draft, and the Skins are short on alternative methods to net an impact player at this position.

With around $30 million in cap space, according to Zac Boyer of the Washington Times, and incumbent starter Brandon Meriweather set to be a free agent, the need and the money is there for Washington to sign Byrd.

While the big splash in free agency hasn't netted the Redskins the results they'd like to see on the field in past seasons, Byrd is Washington's best option to combat the pass-heavy offenses within the NFC East.


    Grading the Redskins’ Free Agency Moves

    Washington Redskins logo
    Washington Redskins

    Grading the Redskins’ Free Agency Moves

    Chris Roling
    via Bleacher Report

    Miller’s New Scouting Notebook, Updated Big Board

    NFL logo

    Miller’s New Scouting Notebook, Updated Big Board

    Matt Miller
    via Bleacher Report

    Police: Bennett Assaulted Woman, Told Cops 'F--k Off'

    NFL logo

    Police: Bennett Assaulted Woman, Told Cops 'F--k Off'

    Adam Wells
    via Bleacher Report

    Corey Liuget Banned 4 Games for PED Violation

    NFL logo

    Corey Liuget Banned 4 Games for PED Violation

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report