What a difference a year makes when it comes to hype and expectations on certain players.
For the New Orleans Saints it’s looking like the player that produced a lot of that hype and expectation is back to where he started a year ago.
Safety Jairus Byrd is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list which is where he started at the Greenbriar in 2014.
When it was reported that Byrd was headed to New Orleans in free agency last year, he was dubbed the missing piece to a secondary that has lacked a ball hawking safety since the arrival of Darren Sharper in 2009.
Fans gladly got out the broom and swept out the memories of former 2009 first round pick Malcolm Jenkins in favor of Byrd.
But it was learned last May that he had an issue with a disc in his back with Byrd having surgery to correct the problem.
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He was placed on the PUP list for training camp and didn’t come off of it until the last week in July, but didn’t see his first set of full contact drills until the preseason in mid-August.
Byrd’s debut with the Saints was less than spectacular and while he did force a fumble in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons, that was the only highlight of his season.
The fierce ball hawk that the Saints signed was nowhere to be found as he was forced into double duty playing on the field as well as trying to babysit members of the secondary who appeared lost most of the time.
After only four games Byrd tore his lateral meniscus during practice and was placed on injured reserve, ending his inaugural 2014 campaign in New Orleans.
Fast forward to March 2015 and head coach Sean Payton declared Byrd only a few weeks away from being a full go for OTA’s and mini-camp.
And indeed he was ready to go for the start of the Saints redemption campaign, which naturally Byrd was expected to be a big part of.
But then news came this past week that Byrd would start the 2015 training camp yet again on the PUP list just as he was in 2014.
He has been a notable absence at practice sessions except for being spotted in the Saints Saturday afternoon walkthrough merely watching from the sidelines.
While the Saints are likely being cautious with their high priced free agent acquisition, it’s still not a very comforting situations for already nervous Who Dat’s, which is quite understandable if you look at his contract numbers.
After this season Byrd will average a salary cap hit of around $11 million dollars a year until the final year of his contract in 2019.
While it’s easy to say if Byrd flops this year to go ahead and release him then that would mean a dead money hit of $11.4 million in 2016, $8 million in 2017, $4.6 million in 2018, and $1.2 million in 2019 according to Spotrac.com.
The Saints have already taken a major dead money hit with the recent release of outside linebacker Junior Galette and with Byrd’s contract being the third highest on the Saints list, it’s not an easy fix.
It’s also not easy to look at a player who in his five seasons with the Buffalo Bills registered 356 combined tackles, 3 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, and 22 interceptions compared to 22 tackles and a forced fumble in four games last year.Aug 9, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis during a preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Chiefs 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Obviously the Saints expect more for their money and Byrd is well aware that he has got to live up to the expectations that were placed on him when he signed his contract.
If his 2015 campaign mirrors what 2014 was starting to look like, then Byrd could go down as a huge free agent flop for general manager Mickey Loomis.
But it’s still early in training camp so we’ll have to see what the game plan is for Byrd moving forward and when he’ll come off the PUP list, which is hopefully sooner than later.
For the Saints, it looks like it’s Byrd or Bust from here on out…….