With the recent news that the Bills’ Pro Bowl free safety Jairus Byrd will not be franchise tagged by Buffalo this coming season to keep him under contract, talk of his potential suitors is heating up.
Among those names is the New York Jets, who in 2013 owned the 22nd best passing defense in the league.
Much of the Jets’ downfall against the pass came because of poor secondary play. Following the 2012 season, New York lost Yeremiah Bell to the Cardinals and LaRon Landry to the Colts. The two formed a solid safety pairing, and were one of the very few bright points in what was a dismal season that year for Gang Green.
As well as losing both of their starting safeties, the Jets also traded Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leaving their secondary ranks depleted.
To cover the losses of both Bell and Landry, the Jets signed LaRon’s brother Dawan Landry, and existing players Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett were left to fight it out for the remaining starting spot at safety.
Ed Reed was brought in later in the year after the Texans cut him, though he didn’t make much of an impact for New York, despite grabbing three interceptions and seemingly having a positive effect on rookie cornerback and first round pick Dee Milliner, who struggled before Reed’s arrival. As starters, Landry and Allen were serviceable, but they were far from top-drawer.
With a healthy amount of cap space to play with, the New York Jets are in a position to purchase at least one premium free agent. They haven’t spent big for a safety under Rex Ryan, and in spite of that have finished with a top 11 defense for the past five years. However, the addition of Jairus Byrd could take Rex Ryan’s defense to another level.
One thing that Byrd could bring to the Jets’ secondary is some much needed turnovers.
They finished last season second from bottom in turnover differential in the AFC, only ahead of last-placed Texans, and their defense had a paltry 13 interceptions. As a two-time AFC interceptions leader, Jairus Byrd would surely help bring some much needed help in that department. His instincts and ball skills would be a welcome addition to New York’s secondary, and would give them a real playmaker on defense.
However, to bring Byrd to the Meadowlands, it appears that the Jets would have to provide a significant financial outlay.
Although their secondary wasn’t fantastic in 2013 and Byrd would help them to upgrade in that respect, the Jets have greater needs on the other side of the ball. They may not wish to give a player like Byrd a very large contract, when they could use that money to spend on weapons for second-year quarterback Geno Smith.
Woody Johnson and the Jets would have to heavily invest in Jairus Byrd to make sure that he’s wearing green and white next season. It may be a risky move done at expense of other areas, but if the Jets were to cough up top dollar for Byrd, then stats would suggest that they would be getting a sure-fire difference maker.
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