Top 10 Worst Free Agents Signed by the Saints
We hope you enjoyed this Top 10 List. And a big Thank You to Allen Ulrich and the Under the Dome Podcast on YouTube
10. James “Tootie” Robbins
9. Grady Jackson
8. Eric Allen
7. Wally Williams
6. Dale Carter
5. Jason David
4. Andre Royal
3. Albert Connell
2. Brandon Browner
Dishonorable Mentions: Adrian Peterson, CJ Spiller, Champ Bailey, Michael Haynes
And now, the Worst Free Agent in Saints history, Jairus Byrd.
To understand this signing, you have to look at two seasons which have forever shaped Sean Payton’s philosophy regarding defense: the 2009 and 2011 seasons.
In 2009, the Saints signed a “too old” safety from the Vikings, Darren Sharper. Sharper was the active NFL interception leader with 54. Sharper would get 9 (one short of original Saint Dave Whitsell’s 10 in 1967) in 2009 for 376 yards and 3 TDs.
In the postseason, the Saints forced 8 fumbles, but none was more important that Tracy Porter’s interception of Brett Favre with 19 seconds left. For an encore, Porter picked off Manning in Super Bowl XLIV to seal the victory, making the Saints world champions.
In 2011, the turnovers were far harder to come by. After collecting 26 interceptions in 2009, they could only manage 9. In the NFC Divisional Playoff game vs. the 49ers, the Saints turned the ball over 5 times, but still had an opportunity to win. Both Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins had opportunities to close out the win, be neither could force that critical turnover to preserve a Saints victory.
The next trip to the playoffs, following the 2013 season, also ended in the divisional round –this time in Seattle, as once again the Saints lost the turnover battle.
Therefore, the Saints were looking for someone who could be a ball hawk, much the way Sharper was in 2009.
Enter Jairus Byrd.
The son of former Charger defensive back Gill Byrd, Jarius Byrd collected 22 interceptions in his first five seasons in the league –including 9 in his rookie season. As a comparison, Malcolm Jenkins, who was taken in the same draft as Byrd, had 6 career interceptions, and in 2012 both Jenkins and Harper were rated the worst safety tandem in pro football.
With all of this in mind, the Saints signed Jarius Byrd to a six year, $56 million contract, with $28 million guaranteed. With this signing, the spin coming out of camp was this was the most talented Saints team ever assembled.
In training camp, the first indications that the star signing was going to be a problem began with an injured back. Jarius Byrd missed much of training camp with the injury, but managed to start opening weekend in Atlanta. Byrd forced a fumble deep in Saints territory on the Falcons first possession, and it seemed that the star would become the playmaker they had hoped.
However, three weeks later in a practice, Byrd tore his lateral meniscus, and was lost for the rest of the season.
The following season, Byrd seemed to suffer one setback after another as he struggled to regain the form he showed in Buffalo. Indeed, reports coming from the Buffalo beat writers was that Byrd’s body was already breaking down, and that he would never be the player he was.
The 2015 season was filled with chaos on the defense, with Rob Ryan fired at midseason, and Dennis Allen took over as coordinator. While that defense began to stop making the mental errors, it still gave up and NFL record 48 touchdowns.
2016 would be Jarius Byrd’s best year as a Saint. He managed to pick off two passes, but never showed the quickness and speed he showed in Buffalo. He played the deep middle passively and was very slow in reacting to plays in front of him.
Jarius Byrd was released at the end of the 2016 season, costing the Saints $8 million in dead money over the next three seasons.
And what of Malcolm Jenkins, the safety Byrd replaced?
Jenkins had a rebirth as an Eagle. Playing a roaming free/strong safety Jenkins picked off 10 passes and scored twice as many TDs than he did as a Saint. He was named to the pro bowl twice, and this February, won a Super Bowl.
In the draft, the Saints selected safety Marcus Williams out of Utah. In Williams’ rookie season, he gathered 5 interceptions. Perhaps Williams will finally be the playmaker Payton has searched for since 2009, but Byrd stands as a cautionary lesson in free agency.
Jairus Byrd was rated the top free safety in free agency in 2014. With the resume he had entering free agency, he commanded top dollar on the market. The Saints made an attempt at a “splash signing” thinking a safety who forces turnovers would be the difference between losing in the divisional round of the playoffs and winning a second Super Bowl.
So here we are, another divisional round defeat, once again looking at free agency trying to find that difference maker who can get us over the playoff hump and that second championship.
This team is not the 2014 team, but few knew in 2013 what was waiting around the corner.
It’s not about finding the best free agent, but the best free agent that fits what you want to do. Players go into free agency looking to get paid, so the temptation is to give a guy what he wants in order to lock up his services –which is what we did with Jarius Byrd.