The salary-cap-restricted New Orleans Saints somehow found a way to make a splash on Day 1 of free agency on Tuesday, signing former Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd to a six-year deal, according to the team's official Twitter account:
USA Today's Lindsay H. Jones reports that the deal is worth $54 million with $28 million guaranteed.
Although no one saw the move coming, Byrd is an ideal addition for the NFC South contenders, per NewOrleansSaints.com:
We [Bills] played against the Saints this year and I saw their style of play and was impressed by it. I think I will fit well in the scheme. This is a great opportunity to join a championship organization. I look forward to meeting my new teammates and being part of a great Saints defense.
It remains to be seen how paying Byrd will affect New Orleans at other positions this offseason (Jimmy Graham is still looking to get paid), but there's no denying how smart the signing is from a football standpoint.
Former NFL safety and Bleacher Report NFL writer Matt Bowen shows why Byrd is a big-time addition for New Orleans:
This move makes the Saints better defensively and gives them one of the most fearsome safety duos in the entire NFL with 15th overall pick Kenny Vaccaro sure to continue his improvement in year No. 2. Not to mention, the former Texas star will likely benefit from Byrd's leadership and experience.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Saints general manager Micky Loomis highlighted Byrd's "play-making abilities" as one of his biggest strengths, per NewOrleansSaints.com:
We had hoped for the opportunity to pursue Jairus Byrd. After meeting with him, we are excited that he will become a member of the New Orleans Saints. We think that his play-making abilities will be an excellent fit with what we are trying to accomplish with our defense and in our secondary.
The 27-year-old Byrd missed the first five games of the season last year while taking his time recovering from a foot injury. But in five NFL seasons with the Bills, Byrd only missed seven total games. Therefore, the Saints shouldn't have to worry about their marquee signing staying on the field in 2014.
What's more, New Orleans already had a stout secondary and scheme in place before landing Byrd. The Saints ranked second in the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed and only surrendered 20 touchdowns through the air during the regular season in 2013. But injuries, expiring contracts and cuts have opened up some holes. Although Byrd won't fill them all, his ability to cover up flaws on the back end and force turnovers make him the perfect signing for Rob Ryan's unit.
Since being drafted in 2009, the three-time Pro Bowler has recorded 22 interceptions and forced 11 fumbles. That's important to note considering the Saints were only able to force an NFC-low 19 turnovers in 2013.
With Byrd setting the tone and assisting Vaccaro in his development, the Saints are poised to field one of the NFC's top defenses in 2014. And for a team known for its explosiveness on offense, New Orleans will remain a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and in the years to come.
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