Jairus Byrd Reportedly to Be Released by Saints on 1st Day of Free Agency

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2017

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 24:  Jairus Byrd #31 of the New Orleans Saints reacts after an interception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 24, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints are preparing to release veteran safety Jairus Byrd on the first day of the NFL's 2017 free-agency period.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network and Herbie Teope of the Times-Picayune reported the news. Free agency begins March 9.

Byrd, 30, spent the last three years in New Orleans. He recorded 82 tackles and two interceptions while playing all 16 games in 2016. Signed to a six-year, $56 million contract before the 2014 season, Byrd was unable to fulfill the Saints' need for a defensive cornerstone and was becoming a cap albatross.

The Saints will wait until the first day of free agency for cap purposes. By waiting until the new league year begins, they can designate him a post-June 1 cut. Designating Byrd allows New Orleans to kick its cap can down the road another year, with Byrd saving the team $7.8 million, per Over the Cap. A pre-June 1 distinction only would have saved the team $3.2 million.

A three-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro when signing with New Orleans, Byrd has not been the same since a 2014 knee injury. He played a combined 17 games in his first two seasons with the Saints and was largely ineffective last season.

Pro Football Focus graded Byrd as the 46th-best safety in the sport. He nevertheless said he felt healthy toward the end of the season and played better football in the second half.

"I feel good," Byrd told reporters. "Knee injuries are a serious thing. I just thank God I'm able to come out there and continue to get better and continue to get my bearings back straight, because you never know with those things."

Byrd will likely be looking at a short-term, "prove it" deal where teams will hope they can buy low on a still-talented player. Turning 31 in October, Byrd is still young enough to have a couple of solid post-prime seasons if he finds the right situation.

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