NFL Free Agency 2014: A Look at Safety Jairus Byrd

Richard Santamaria@RiSantamariaCorrespondent IIMarch 7, 2014

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 02:  Jairus Byrd #31 runs for a touchdown after intercepting a pass intended for Joe McKnight #25 of the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on January 2, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Jairus Byrd is considered to be the best free agent the NFL has to offer in 2014.  Chris Wesseling and Gregg Rosenthal of consider Byrd to be a difference-maker and argue, "guys this good usually don't make it to free-agency."  

The Buffalo Bills and their general manager Doug Whaley did not place the franchise tag on the 27-year-old Byrd likely because they have too many holes to fill elsewhere.  The franchise tag would have cost the Bills $8.433 million in 2014.  Buffalo will only take Byrd at a discount, and there is nothing to entice the three-time All-Pro safety as the Bills are not expected to be contenders in 2014.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Byrd was the eighth-best safety in 2013.

Pro Football Focus' system penalizes players for missing games, and despite playing in only 11 games in 2013, Byrd was rated ahead of Seattle's Earl Thomas.  The Oregon standout was rated behind Devin McCourty, Will Hill, T.J. Ward, Eric Berry, Troy Polamalu, Donte Whitner and Eric Weddle.

In five NFL seasons, Byrd has made 356 total tackles, 22 interceptions and forced 11 fumbles.  Byrd led the league in 2009 with nine interceptions.  Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei considers Byrd to be "elite instinctively but less than elite athletically."  Pompei considers Byrd to be the top free agent in 2014 and claims that the "word on the street" is that Byrd wants more than $9 million a year.

The teams that are most desperate for a safety include the Houston Texans, St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins.  If T.J. Ward does not come to an agreement with Cleveland, the Browns will also be in the mix.  

With no shortage of suitors, there is no reason to believe that Byrd will not, at least, match Dashon Goldson's five-year deal with Tampa Bay, worth $41.25 million with $18 million guaranteed.  

Speaking of the Buccaneers, Byrd's father, Gil, is Tampa Bay's cornerbacks coach, but with Mark Barron and Goldson in town already, a family reunion is unlikely.  The other connections for Byrd are Browns head coach Mike Pettine, who was Buffalo's defensive coordinator in 2013 and Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, who was Oregon's offensive coordinator when Byrd played there.  

Both the Eagles and Browns have the cap space to make Byrd the league's highest-paid safety.

PREDICTION: Philadelphia Eagles