According to a source, the Bills and Jairus Byrd may be parting ways soon. Byrd is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and the team has until Monday at 4 pm to place the franchise tag on their star safety. I'm told that it's unlikely they'll use the tag and that it's unlikely they'll reach an agreement before that time.The 27-year old Byrd is regarded as one of the top deep safeties in the league, but the expectation had been that he'd be franchised. He intercepted four passes last season with the Bills, who drafted him in the second round in 2009.
Byrd is definitely one of the better center fielders in the league and the Jets certainly have the cap space to bid for him, but how much of an upgrade would that provide? They received competent-to-good play from their free safeties last year at a fraction of the price, so the question becomes whether the additional investment in a player like Byrd is worth the impact he would have on their defense, or would spending the money elsewhere give you more "bang for your buck"?
Regular readers will recall that I was strongly against bringing back LaRon Landry at $6m+ because I felt they could spend a fraction of that amount without downgrading their defense too significantly (and I'd suggest that's the way things played out). While I do prefer Byrd to Landry (for many reasons, including his coverage skills and Landry's recklessness), both have had health issues in the past, which should also be a consideration.
The Jets do have Dawan Landry under contract for $1.5m next year and their young crop of safeties (Antonio Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Josh Bush and Rontez Miles) have all displayed varying degrees of promise and are all also still under contract. In addition, Ed Reed - whose late season performances once he settled into his role had a positive effect upon rookie cornerback Dee Milliner - is a free agent who has expressed a desire to return, again presumably at a low cost.
On the basis of the top safety contracts, Byrd could be seeking somewhere close to $10m per year. A quick review of that list does appear to show that hardly any of the teams spending significant money on the safety position are among the league's elite.
I know many people, including Bassett, see the safety position as a major need, but my preference would to be to allocate resources to upgrading at cornerback, receiver, tight end and offensive line and just bring back Reed.