NFL Free-Agent Rumors: Latest Buzz on Top Available Defensive Backs

Alex Espinoza@AlexEspinozaIVCorrespondent IIIMarch 11, 2014

Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd (31) walks off the field after an NFL football game against the New York Jets on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Buffalo won 37-14. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)
Heather Ainsworth/Associated Press

The first day of 2014 NFL free agency is only a few hours old, and there has already been a flurry of high-profile team activity. On Tuesday, teams quickly committed hundreds of millions of dollars to new players in their efforts to get their hands on the trophy for Super Bowl 49.

It's a fluid landscape, and the Twitterverse lets fans keep up with the action like never before. For now, here's a look at the latest rumors for a trio of the top defensive backs on the market. 


Jairus Byrd, Safety

According to, Jairus Byrd entered the free-agency period as the top available player on the open market.

The talented safety has earned three Pro Bowl bids in five years and was a prime candidate to receive the franchise tag from the Buffalo Bills this offseason, but the club elected not to guarantee him an $8.4 million salary for 2014.

Now that he's on the open market, Byrd figures to have a host of interested teams as he tries to cash in on a big payday. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the New Orleans Saints have emerged as a suitor for Byrd:

New Orleans already has a star safety in the making in Kenny Vaccaro, but adding Byrd to that tandem would be a great weapon for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. After releasing Malcolm Jenkins—who has since reportedly signed a three-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, according to Schefterthe Saints need another safety.

On the flip side of things, Philadelphia was pegged to be one of Byrd's top potential suitors but has already filled its need at safety. According to Ian Rapoport of, there's still a chance Byrd could return to Buffalo, too:

Larry Holder of gave some perspective on the possibility of Byrd joining the Saints:

Byrd's price tag has been reportedly set as high as $9 million per season. The Saints aren't exactly in a position to spent mega bucks on a free agent as they're reportedly only about $2 million under the salary cap. 

But the Saints were in a similar situation last offseason and nearly landed top free agent pass rusher Paul Kruger. So the team is will to make moves within their building concerning salaries to make a splash.

So the Saints will have to be creative to sign Byrd, who reportedly wants some big bucks. In fact, earlier this month, Rapoport tweeted that Byrd declined an offer from the Bills that would have made him the game's highest-paid safety for a portion of the deal.

New Orleans was able to forge a strong defensive identity in 2013 to go along with its traditionally strong offense, and adding a player of Byrd's caliber would only help. But the financial situation makes this potential partnership harder to realize.


Charles Tillman, Cornerback

One of the biggest storylines of the day had to do with the future of Darrelle Revis, the talented (and expensive) cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Throughout Tuesday's initial flurry of free-agent activity, Revis' name popped up often after he was labeled to be on the trading block by Rapoport. As of Tuesday evening, potential trade talks between the Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns had reportedly cooled:

So what does this have to do with Charles Tillman?

Well, according to Schefter, the Buccaneers are getting set to host the cornerback for a visit in the near future:

With a cap hit of $16 million each of the next five years, Revis' contract will make him a hard player to move. So replacing him with Tillman, who had an annual cap hit of $8 million the past two years, would be a wiser financial decision.

Tillman is already familiar with Bucs coach Lovie Smith from their time together on the Chicago Bears in years past. "Peanut" might not be as talented as Revis, but with 36 interceptions since his rookie year in 2003, Tillman has been a consistent contributor throughout his career.

Tampa Bay already bolstered its team on Tuesday with some notable deals—highlighted by the signing of defensive end Michael Johnson, per Scott Smith of—and adding Tillman would seem to make sense.

But it will be interesting to see if Tillman is willing to play the waiting game as the Revis situation shakes out, because there are certainly other teams out there that need help in the secondary.


Alterraun Verner, Cornerback

Now that Sam Shields and Brent Grimes have re-signed with their respective teams, Alterraun Verner has emerged as the top available cornerback on the free-agent market.

According to Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports, Verner was on the verge of agreeing to a deal as of Tuesday night:

When the free-agency period opened, Chris Wesseling of noted that Verner told SiriusXM's Mad Dog Radio that he would like to play for the Denver Broncos or New England Patriots. Meanwhile, Wesseling also listed the New York Giants and Jets among others who have been linked to the four-year veteran.

This past season was something of a coming-out party for Verner, per Ben Volin of The Boston Globe:

So how much is he worth?

Shields (four years, $39 million), Vontae Davis (four years, $39 million) and Brent Grimes (four years, $32) all cashed in with nice paydays, and Verner is likely to be in that same neighborhood. Paul Kuharsky of sounds surprised at the amount of money being thrown at cornerbacks this offseason:

But in a pass-happy league like the NFL, finding a true shutdown corner will cost you. Now we just have to stay tuned to see where Verner lands.