Jairus Byrd Is A Free Agent, Plus A Franchise Tag Roundup

Rick Stewart

The best free safety on the market could be a top target for the Atlanta Falcons.

The Atlanta Falcons appeared resigned to bargain hunting at the free safety position, given their other needs and the likely absence of Jairus Byrd. While I had my doubts the Bills would re-sign Byrd, every report for the last few weeks indicated the team was going to franchise him, so we all moved on. We may have been a little premature there.

Byrd is now set to become a free agent. He'll instantly become one of the premier players on the open market, and it's fair to assume at least a half-dozen teams will be ardently pursuing him with their free agent dollars.

That's good and bad news for the Falcons. The good news, of course, is that they have a rare opportunity to replace an existing player with a history of up and down production with one of the best in the league at his position, even if it will be costly. Doing so would immediately turn the secondary into one of the team's best units and one of the best secondaries in the NFC, giving the Falcons a nice safety net as they try to rebuild their pass rush. The bad news is that there are other teams with plenty of cap space who will be angling to land Byrd, with the Browns standing out because they have an absurd amount of money, and the Buccaneers because Byrd's dad is currently a coach there. It's not a lock, is what I'm saying.

Make no mistake, though: The Falcons will try to sign Byrd, and they should be aggressive about doing so. Unless their first call to his representation reveals they're millions of dollars per year away from an accord, the Falcons should push their chips on the table. Hardy and Brian Orakpo are off the market and Michael Johnson is being widely connected to the cap-loaded Minnesota Vikings, so if you're going to add a true impact defender, Byrd might be the guy.

In other tag news, Orakpo is staying in Washington, Oakland is not retaining versatile defensive lineman Lamarr Houston, the Ravens aren't keeping tackle Eugene Monroe and the Browns aren't franchising T.J. Ward. Byrd is the crown jewel of the class in many ways, but the Falcons could be interested in every single player I just mentioned. Alex Mack gets the transition tag in Cleveland, so he's off the market.

For those interested in Jason Worilds, he's also off the market unless you want to deal with the transition tag:

What do you think? Should the Falcons chase Byrd? Should they go after Houston, Monroe or Ward?

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