NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - There was no bigger proponent of the Saints signing of Jairus Byrd than me.
His interception total in Buffalo was too much to ignore. On our shows, I publicly sang his praises for two offseasons how the Saints should do whatever they had to to sign him. The last time the Saints had a player that created that many takeaways, they won a Super Bowl. He was, I believed, the missing piece to the NFL's fourth ranked defense from 2013.
The Saints clearly felt the same way and stunned everyone by signing him to the richest safety contract in NFL history.
How wrong we both were.
Instead of being the guy that put the Saints back on top, Byrd became the beginning of a disastrous offseason that set the Saints on a path to three straight 7-9 seasons.
Along with the Byrd addition came the subtractions of longtime locker room guys: Lance Moore, Roman Harper, Darren Sproles, Jabari Greer, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma. They also chose not to sign Malcolm Jenkins. Some of those players were past their primes; some were not. But there's no denying that letting all those intangibles walk out the door had a devastating impact. Next, they moved training camp to the Greenbrier. Then came the worst draft of the Sean Payton era. By the following year, only Brandin Cooks and Vinnie Sunseri remained on the roster and Sunseri was on IR.By 2016, only Cooks remained. Next, came the long, drawn out Jimmy Graham contract saga. It's crazy to look back and think about how nonchalantly everyone seemed to overlook the fact that the organization was testifying against one of their best players and the message that it would send to the locker room. Sure, they got deal done but one year later Graham was gone. And finally, the Saints made the unnecessary decision to extend Junior Galette.
A series of miscalculations turned what many, including myself, thought was the best Saints team ever assembled on paper into an absolute mess. The following offseason the organization knew they had a locker room problem and went on a mission to weed out the bad seeds.
It has taken them three years to fully recover.
The good news is, the worst is over for the Saints. Byrd, and his contract, are gone. They've stabilized their locker room and are now finally out of that cap hell. They should have around $30 million in cap space to go shopping this offseason.
But hopefully they proceed with caution. They should spend money but spend it wisely. If the Byrd signing taught anything, it's that spending big on someone else's free agent rarely works out the way a team envisions. And as we saw in 2014, it can have a ripple effect on an entire team.