The burning question: Should the Philadelphia Eagles pay Jairus Byrd whatever it takes to have him suit up in midnight green? Out of all the possibilities that could happen once free agency starts, this is the single-most biggest question that needs an answer.
Since the end of the season, I have been preaching that it would be a complete no-brainer for the Eagles to go after Byrd if he were to make it to the open market. I mean, really, do I need to explain it?
If the black hole at safety were any larger, we might start seeing the bending of light when the defense is on the field.
One of the top players in the league at a position of serious need will be available. A player whom the head coach is familiar with to boot. As far as a scheme fit, he didn’t play the position exactly like Bill Davis used his Safeties last year, but the transition would be transparent.
In other words, it would make no sense to not go after this guy, right?
Well, you may have heard a time or 20 this offseason that Howie Roseman and the Eagles will be cautious with their spending. They do not want to mortgage the future on this year’s free agent crop.
In particular, they want to be as cap flexible as possible for next offseason when they can extend players like Nick Foles, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin.
But, would signing Jairus Byrd as their only “big ticket” free agent put them in such a bind? I’m not a cap expert, but logically I wouldn’t think it would strap the team. Of course, it’s not as if Byrd would be the only free agent they sign, so maybe they would have to limit the number of free agent contracts they dole out.
For example, if they intended to sign five mid-level guys to comprise the bulk of money as their total free agent haul, maybe they would have to scale it back to Byrd and just two other guys. In essence, giving up two mid-level players for one stud.
Of course, that’s me just over-simplifying things.
Besides the aspect of future salary cap ramifications for signing a big money free agent, there is also the aspect of how such a signing would affect the team’s locker room chemistry.
We all know how 2011 was and how bringing in “paid mercenaries” destroyed the team atmosphere. But, that was multiple players, not just one guy.
However, there is legitimate concern that players can see their front office dole out big cash to a guy who hasn’t put in the sweat equity on their team and therefore either get jealous or start to worry more about getting paid rather than focusing on being “team first.”
This is particularly true if the players in the locker room view the newly signed free agent as not being worth the money he was just paid. Guys could start thinking “hey, I’m more talented than that guy and he got paid like that? I’ma get mine!”
Players are probably more forgiving when everyone views the new free agent as a top player who would be getting big money no matter where he signed, or as a talented player who could be the missing piece to make a championship run.
What category Byrd fits in is a good question. Is he “elite” and therefore it’s a given that he’ll get paid as an elite player like he should? Or is he just an “okay” player who will get overpaid causing the vets on his new team to get disgruntled?
I wouldn’t describe Byrd as an elite player and I don’t think anyone else would either. However, he is certainly a good player and one of the top players in the league at his position. He’s not a one-year wonder and is a proven playmaker.
And if you go by Pro Football Focus player ratings, Byrd has been ranked in their top eight for the past three years (including 2nd and 3rd in 2011 and 2012).
At the same time, it’s hard to argue that the Eagles are simply one or two pieces away from a serious championship run. It’s also hard to say definitively that they’re not.
They won the division and have a high caliber offense. The defense needs a lot of work, but one could make the argument that fixing the Safety position and adding a good pass rusher would go a long way in getting the defense to where it needs to be in order for the team to legitimately contend for a title in 2014.
Back in the 2004 offseason and coming off of three consecutive NFCCG losses, the Eagles paid top dollar to add DE Jevon Kearse and then pulled off the big trade to bring in Terrell Owens. Those moves were seen as the missing pieces to the puzzle so there was no discontent within the locker room.
This isn’t quite the same situation, but Byrd could be received as a big missing piece to help the defense get to where they want to be. He is the only free agent that is worth it for the Eagles to dole out big cash.
T.J. Ward is nice player as well, but if the Eagles are going to spend big, it should be on Byrd, not Ward.
I’m sure the Eagles will have interest, but the question is what’s Roseman’s “walk away number?” I’m not saying he should hand Byrd a blank check, but rather do everything they can to convince him to come to Philly for a fair deal over just simply going to the highest bidder.
The most interesting thing I’m finding about this situation is that, as much as I desperately want the Safety position fixed, I won’t be upset if the Eagles do not land Byrd (or Ward for that matter).
Roseman has done a good job of convincing me that identifying good mid-level free agents and hitting on draft prospects is the better way to build a team. If I knew that signing Byrd would disrupt team harmony in any way, I’d say no way.
But Safety is such a sore spot with me, I get exasperated every time I think about the Eagles’ lack of talent at this position and just want it fixed once and for all.
If not Byrd, then get ready for Mike Mitchell (preferred), Malcom Jenkins (Okay) or maybe even someone like Taylor Mays (versatile, low risk). Then we’ll have to hope to address this position high in the draft.