NFL Free Agency Rumors: Buccaneers after Jairus Byrd?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The free agency rumor mill continues, with today's featuring Jairus Byrd and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could sign free agent safety Jairus Byrd in free agency, according to Peter King. He bases that expectation on the fact that his father, Gil Byrd, coaches cornerbacks for the Buccaneers. That echoes the comments of Greg Gabriel, former Bears director of scouting, who said that Lovie Smith wanted to draft Byrd in Chicago.

The issue here is what the Buccaneers would do with Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron, the team's two starting safeties. Goldson signed a $41.25 million contract last year, and has at minimum $9 million in guarantees remaining, and at most $16.5 million (as usual, reporting on guarantees was a bit muddled due to contractual complexities). Regardless, Goldson's not getting cut this year regardless of the addition of Byrd. He's also unlikely to be traded with that contract, especially so when you take into account that any team could sign Byrd instead of trade for Goldson.

Byrd could instead displace Barron, but given the third-year player's strong play the past two seasons, that seems unlikely. Cheap, quality starters are hard to come by, and replacing him with an expensive free agent would make very little sense from a team-building perspective. Meanwhile, Goldson's play last year wasn't without fault, but the cap space Byrd's contract would take up could be better spent at other positions.

There is one option, though: if the Buccaneers want to start playing a lot of big nickel defense, they could decide to sign Jairus Byrd. Big Nickel subpackages feature three safeties rather than three cornerbacks, and were heavily used by the New Orleans Saints last year. The Saints had Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins and Kenny Vaccaro at safety, and used their skillsets well to create one of the most dominant defenses in the NFL just one year after having the worst defense in the NFL.

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