The 2017 league year doesn’t begin until next week, but we know what the first move will be by the New Orleans Saints.
As first reported Tuesday night by NFL Media’s Ian Rapaport, the Saints will release safety Jairus Byrd on March 9, the first day that free agents can sign with other teams.
Source: The #Saints will release big-money safety Jairus Byrd on first day of FA. Another top DB available.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 1, 2017
Saints coach Sean Payton confirmed the news in an interview Thursday posted on the club’s website.
“It hasn’t been announced officially yet, but that’s going to come in the next 3-4 days,” Payton said. “He’s going to have a chance to sign with another team.
“In my conversations with (Byrd), the most frustrating thing was the injuries. He’s an extremely talented player. News like that is important for the player to get prior to free agency.”
Byrd would have counted $11.2 million against the Saints’ 2017 salary cap next year. His release will cause New Orleans to eat $8 million in dead money – the remaining portion of the pro-rated signing bonuses Byrd was due on the three years left on his six-year, $52.5 million contract.
Here’s how Byrd’s contract broke down, according to OverTheCap.com.
Byrd, 30, never lived up to his reputation as a ball-hawking safety in three seasons with the Saints. In his first five years with the Buffalo Bills, Byrd had 22 interceptions and forced 11 fumbles. But with the Saints, he was in on five takeaways – two fumbles forced and three interceptions. Two of those picks came in a Christmas Eve victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Byrd was in on 157 tackles in his three seasons with the Saints. More than half of those (82) came last season.
Unlike many veteran cuts in recent years that were based on getting the Saints under the salary cap prior to the start of the league year, the Byrd release comes under different circumstances. New Orleans is expected to start 2017 with about $30 million in cap space.