Some team is going to celebrate a big-ticket signing in the coming weeks. The player will be billed as the guy who is going to change everything for that organization.
It might work out. It also might not. That’s the danger of dabbling in free agency. You might find the missing link, or you might just find a pile of fool’s gold.
Given the expectations that came with signing safety Jairus Byrd, who will reportedly be released next week, according to an NFL Network on Tuesday night, the only word to sum up his time in New Orleans is "underwhelming."
He was supposed to put a rising defense over the top and help deliver this city its second Super Bowl. Instead, his tenure will be remembered most for what didn't happen.
He tore up his knee during his inaugural season here, fought off the effects for another year and didn’t start to show what he was capable of until last season. And, by all accounts, it was a good season. The problem is that it might not have been worth the $10.9 million he made last year, or the $11.2 million he was due to count against the salary cap in 2017.
That's why he will now be looking for work in another city.
The feeling here was that Byrd would have been worth keeping around at a discounted rate, especially since he seemed to be playing well in coordinator Dennis Allen's defense, which allowed him to move around more than he had under Rob Ryan. But even with the positive signs last season, his money was always going to be hard to swallow, especially with Vonn Bell coming up behind him.
The level of need at this spot will be determined by how the Saints choose to operate moving forward.
If the team wants to continue using its three-safety package as its primary defense, then it will need to find another safety who can play something like 85 percent of the snaps. If not, New Orleans would only need to add some depth and roll primarily with the players already on the roster.
If it’s the latter, the key will be getting better depth at linebacker and cornerbacks capable of covering so Kenny Vaccaro can continue to play primarily in the box, where he’s best suited.
However New Orleans decides to move forward, it should have the resources to accomplish its goals.
Before this move, New Orleans was projected to have something around $30 million in cap space this offseason. Cutting Byrd straight up would save $3.2 million against the cap. If he is designated as a post-June 1 cut, the Saints can spread his dead money over two seasons, which would save them $7.8 million this season.
That should give the organization ample funds to improve a defense that has several holes to fill. It has been a while since the organization has had this kind of flexibility.
The key, of course, is finding the right players. That lesson certainly has been learned after the past few big-ticket free agents brought in did not materialize as expected. And this is another reminder of how things sometimes don’t work out as hoped.
The Saints can’t shy away now. They need to find ways to get better, and perhaps the Byrd situation was the result of bad luck given his knee injury. But if New Orleans wants to find a way out of its 7-9 malaise, it needs to hit on all of whatever moves it makes this offseason.