It has been two years since the Saints signed safety Jarius Byrd to a six-year, $56 million dollar contract during the free agency period of 2014. From that moment forward, the Saints organization has had a negative return on their investment. Byrd has not played a full season in a Saints uniform ever since he signed the huge deal in the offseason of 2014.
Byrd was supposed to be the centerpiece of the Saints secondary that was expected to be a reincarnation of Seattle Seahawks “Legion of Boom” that has been a pain in the rear end for the Saints and other high-powered offenses in the National Football League. So far that experiment has failed and once again the Saints front office is trying to figure out a way to incorporate Byrd in the team’s defensive scheme. Injuries have plagued the majority of Byrd’s time in New Orleans.
He missed the remainder of the 2014 season when he suffered a torn lateral meniscus knee ligament injury during practice. In 2015, he did not miss the entire season, but still had to deal with nagging injuries throughout the year. The man that was heavily involved in the recruitment of bringing Byrd to New Orleans, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is no longer with the organization after being the culprit of the worst defense in NFL history.
The team is now hoping that new defensive coordinator Dennis Allen can return Byrd to the form that everyone saw with the Buffalo Bills. In Byrd’s first season with the Bills, he was tied for the league lead in interceptions (9). The Saints defense is hoping that they can get that type of production out of Byrd in 2016 and many seasons to come. On paper, the Saints defense looks good, especially the secondary, but that’s where it stops.
In 2014, Saints fans thought that they were about to get their version of the Seahawks “Legion of Boom” but during that season the team was a total disappointment. Injuries have decimated the team’s secondary; players such as Jarius Byrd and Keenan Lewis are supposed to be stalwarts of what is expected to be a very aggressive defense.
I believe that Dennis Allen can help turn around the Saints defense with Jarius Byrd leading the charge, but how long will it take? Last season the Saints had the freshest faces on defense than any other team in the league at the time. 2016 will tell how much those new starters on defense have grown playing in the National Football League.
If Byrd gets off to a slow start during the 2016 season or continues to have nagging injuries, there’s a young man that the Saints drafted out of Ohio State that could replace Byrd in the Saints starting lineup. 2016 is definitely a “put up or shut up” year for Jarius Byrd.
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