The first day of free agency looked like the lightning round of a game show Tuesday and as the round came to a close Bills free agent safety Jairus Byrd found a new home in New Orleans. Byrd agreed to a six-year contract.
Byrd and his representatives made it clear they wanted to test the free agent market after the safety played under the franchise tag in 2013. Now he'll be teamed with New Orleans first-round pick of a year ago in safety Kenny Vaccaro in the Saints' defensive backfield.
Byrd was gracious in his farewell to Buffalo after signing with New Orleans.
"I first want to thank the Buffalo Bills organization and the great fans of Buffalo for their support during my time there. I think there are great things to come here in New Orleans and I'm excited to join this team," Byrd told NewOrleansSaints.com. "We 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."
The appeal of the defensive schem to Byrd is no surprise. With Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator the scheme is strikingly similar to that of what Buffalo ran in 2013 under former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
"We had hoped for the opportunity to pursue Jairus Byrd," Saints GM Mickey Loomis told NewOrleansSaints.com. "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 Bills insisted the recent contract extension given to last week was mutually exclusive from any dealings they may have had with Jairus Byrd in this coming week, but the deal almost appeared to signal a passing of the torch from Byrd to Williams as the number one safety in Buffalo's defense. Williams and Byrd tied for the team lead in interceptions last season with linebacker Kiko Alonso and fellow free agent safety Jim Leonhard.
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Williams said earlier this week that if Byrd in fact did not re-sign with the Bills that he was prepared to be the team's top safety.
"I’m prepared to be the guy if he’s gone," said Williams. "I wasn't able to be with him the first six games of the year with his foot injury and didn't have the chance to be with him during training camp with his negotiations of trying to get a long-term [contract] last year. So if they need me to fill in for his role, we have guys behind us that are ready to step in and be productive for our team."
More than a handful of free agent safeties landed with new clubs Tuesday including T.J. Ward in Denver, Donte Whitner in Cleveland, Antoine Bethea signed with San Francisco, Malcolm Jenkins signed with Philadelphia, Mike Mitchell signed with Pittsburgh and Louis Delmas signed with Miami.