The Oakland Raiders need to find the free safety of the future to pair with Karl Joseph. Here are the top five options via free agency.
Even with Eric Berry signing his record contract, there are still quite a few talented safeties on the free agent market for the Oakland Raiders to target. The majority of them seem to be strong safeties.
The big names like Jonathan Cyprien, Barry Church, Tony Jefferson, and T.J. McDonald are all strong safeties. However, the Raiders currently have talent at depth at strong safety, in Karl Joseph and Nate Allen.
So who’s left to roam the field and freelance at bit at free safety? With five of the top six names on the safety list playing the strong side, it may seem to be slim pickings in the free range. But it’s not.
Let’s take a look at five free safeties the Raiders could look to add via free agency — in no particular order.
Jairus Byrd, New Orleans Saints
Byrd was once a dynamic playmaker for the Buffalo Bills, and he parlayed that dynamism into a record-breaking contract with the Saints in 2014. But after three years of Byrd being injury-plagued and ineffective, the Saints released him.
They did so despite an $8M cap hit, according to Sportrac. The Saints, trying to rebuild, are willing to absorb an $8M cap hit to rid themselves of Byrd, who plays a position of great need for New Orleans.
Has he been that bad in New Orleans? Well, yes and no. He missed 12 games in his first season with the Saints with a torn meniscus. That injury lingered and hampered his on-field play until well into last season.
He was benched Week 3 of 2016 after a poor performance against the Falcons. He graded a barely above-average 78.1 for the season at Pro Football Focus , and was part of a porous Saints pass defense.
But toward the end of 2016, he began to show flashes of his former dynamic self.
This means that a few things are lining up. One, Byrd is a man with a lot of faith and personal pride and doesn’t like how things happened in New Orleans. He understands people feeling ripped off they paid him a ton and didn’t get much back. So he’s motivated.
Two, he has the pedigree. He’s the son of a former NFL Pro Bowler (Gill Byrd), and he himself was a rookie defensive All-Pro in 2009, when he led the NFL with 9 interceptions.
Turnovers are his staple, as he had 22 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles in five seasons. That’s an average of almost seven turnovers per season, forced by Byrd alone. Very impressive — Byrd is quite the ball-hawk.
The free safety market is fairly thin compared to that of strong safety. Byrd clearly wants to re-establish himself as a premiere defender. He’s humble and understands value for money, return on investment.
If he’s willing to take reasonable pay and reverts to near what he used to be, he could be the steal of the free agent class.