Orlando, Fla. – The consensus from several AFC coaches is that the New Orleans Saints are a more formidable defense now that they have a Byrd in the hand.
Free safety Jairus Byrd, the unrestricted free agent from Buffalo, agreed to terms with New Orleans on a six-year deal March 11, the first day of free agency. Byrd was considered the top safety on the market and was a major acquisition for a Saints team that most believed would not be a major player in free agency.
"I would like to keep him but at the end of the day, it's the decision and a lot of it is based on the finances," Bills Coach Doug Marrone said Tuesday from the annual NFL Meetings.
Marrone, a Saints assistant coach under Sean Payton from 2006-08, coached Byrd last season in Buffalo. Byrd, a five-year veteran, had four of his 22 career interceptions last year. He also has 11 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and 33 passes defensed.
"I actually am happy," Marrone said. "I would much rather him go to a place that I know, (with) Sean Payton. But really, go to a place where … I like Jairus Byrd, I want to see Jairus Byrd be successful. So I'm happy that he went to a place where I know those people, and they're good people.
"I think he adds great leadership to whichever team he goes to. I think he's a great pro, and I think his play speaks for itself. He's a proven play-maker in this league and I think he'll be very, very successful.
"He has great instinct, he has a great feel, and he hustles his butt off. When you watch him play, he is running around out there and he hustles his butt off. And he puts himself in position to make those plays. That's a credit to him."
Jets Coach Rex Ryan also said he's pleased by Byrd's signing, but for different reasons. His twin brother, Rob Ryan, is New Orleans' defensive coordinator and Rob Ryan helped orchestrate a monumental improvement for the Saints last season.
In 2012, New Orleans allowed an NFL-record 7,042 yards and surrendered 49 touchdowns on defense. Last season, those numbers shrunk to 4,891 and 31, and the Saints returned to the playoffs after failing to make the postseason in '12.
"I'm glad," Rex Ryan said. "I'm glad they picked him up, (because now) he's out of our division. I'm also glad for my brother. He should do a tremendous job there. They'll do a great job there. Their defense was probably the most improved defense in the history of the National Football League, so there are some encouraging things going on there.
"With (Byrd's) play-making ability, a guy that can play center field, anticipation – I think those are things (that stand out about Byrd)."
Said Miami Coach Joe Philbin: "(Byrd is a) very productive football player, he's very instinctive, his play speed is very good. He can make those impact plays that everybody looks for."
New Orleans' Byrd is rare in that case. His ability to create turnovers is the element he'll add to a defense that forced 19 turnovers last season, fewest in the NFC and fourth-fewest in the league.
"I liked him," said Oakland Coach Dennis Allen, who was the Saints' defensive backs coach from 2008-10, and assistant defensive line coach from 2006-07. "I thought he was a really good player, I think it was a heck of a pickup for those guys.
"I've always thought that (Saints General Manager) Mickey (Loomis) and Sean and (Director of Player Personnel) Ryan Pace, I think they do a good job in personnel acquisition. They do a real good job of identifying exactly the player they want that fits what they need. I thought the player was a good player and I thought it was a good acquisition for them."