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There’s no reason for the Philadelphia Eagles to not sign a big-name safety. They have plenty of available cap space. The top player on the free-agent market happens to be a safety who attended the same college that Chip Kelly hails from. And that particular player is very clearly not returning to Buffalo.
Jairus Byrd would be a tremendous addition to the Eagles. He’s exactly what the team needs. Byrd is just 27 years old, and he’s in the prime of his career. He will cost a lot of money, but the Eagles have the cap space.
Per Eaglescap.com, Philadelphia has a little over $24 million in available cap space. Over the Cap checks in at $23.5 million. Regardless, there’s financial space should the Eagles want to sign a player. Releasing DeMeco Ryans would clear up close to $7 million. Trent Cole may be asked to take a pay cut. Fitting Byrd under the salary cap shouldn’t be a problem.
Byrd will likely become the NFL’s highest-paid safety, especially considering he’s on the record stating he wants that to be the case. That current honor belongs to Eric Berry in terms of total contract ($50 million), average pay per year ($8.3 million), and guaranteed money ($25 million). Seattle’s Earl Thomas may rewrite the books, but Byrd will be right near him.
A reasonable prediction for Byrd is five years at $10-11 million per year. Dashon Goldson got a five-year, $41.25 million deal last offseason, but Byrd is significantly better. Meanwhile, T.J. Ward would likely command around five years at $7-8 million per season, a deal slightly more than what Tennessee gave Michael Griffin the other year. That’s more practical, but the difference between Byrd and Ward suggests the Eagles should pay the extra money for the better player.
Philadelphia was burned badly by the Nnamdi Asomugha fiasco three offseasons ago, when the team made a huge splash in free agency and reaped little rewards. Asomugha was made the highest-paid corner in the game at five years, $60 million, and he was released after just two seasons. That may make the Eagles reluctant to pay another defensive back, but it shouldn’t.
Byrd is a different situation than Asomugha. They play different positions, they’re coming from different teams and the Eagles need Byrd more than they needed Asomugha. Philly already had Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie when they acquired Asomugha, and then defensive coordinator Juan Castillo utilized Asomugha poorly.
Billy Davis is a much better coordinator than Castillo. He did a great job with the Eagles in 2013, and it’s reasonable to expect he can duplicate that performance if Philly adds an All-Pro safety and maybe a first-round defensive player. Byrd really could be the kind of player who makes the Eagles a serious contender in '14, and they can't pass on him now.