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John DeShazier: Winning culture sold Jairus Byrd on New Orleans Saints

Ball-hawking free agent didn't visit any other teams

For Jairus Byrd, the free agency process was one-and-done.

Byrd, a three-time All-Pro, came to New Orleans and didn't leave until he'd agreed to terms with the Saints on a six-year contract. The safety has 22 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles in his first five seasons.

"Just the opportunity to come here and be around a winning culture – you have a great coach in Coach (Sean) Payton, a great quarterback in Drew Brees," Byrd said. "What this defense is doing with Coach (Rob) Ryan and his leadership, I'm just excited to be a piece and just trying to get us to where we need to be.

"Fortunately, I have a great agent (Eugene Parker) and he gives me great counsel. He knows what's going on, follows the teams. This is a great opportunity. When I was here, talking to everybody, it was just one of those things where this is a great opportunity for me to win games and be in a position where I can be better and further my legacy. That's what I want to do."

Byrd met with Payton and Ryan to discuss his role on defense, as well as how beneficial it would be to play with a complementary offense.

The unrestricted free agent, the top safety on the market and the Saints' second-biggest free agent signing after Brees in 2006, knows he will be counted on to be the ball hawk he was in Buffalo. For the Bills, Byrd also recovered five fumbles and had 33 passes defensed.

"That's what I pride myself in being able to do, create turnovers," he said. "Whether it's interceptions, forced fumbles, whatever it might be. That's something I'm looking forward to coming in here doing, just doing what I normally do.

"Any time you can get turnovers and give the ball back to the offense when you have a great quarterback and a great offensive-minded coach like that, that's what they want. I'm just excited that I'm coming in here and able to try to help do that. That was one of the biggest things that we talked about. I just can't explain how excited I am."

Of Ryan, the Saints' defensive coordinator, Byrd said: "He just said, basically, he looks at everybody and he's going to do what everyone does well. He takes input from the players. It's not a 'my,' it's a 'we.' That was big, him saying that.

"It's a collective effort and I'm just excited to be able to work with him. I've heard so many great things about him throughout the league – players, older veterans who aren't playing any more, other coaches, I've gotten texts and calls from them saying how much I would really enjoy playing for him."

He said he also will enjoy playing at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He was on the visiting sideline last season, when the Saints beat the Bills 35-17 on Oct. 27.

"Playing here last year, I saw how the atmosphere was," he said. "It was electric. The Dome was rocking when I was here. They feed off that and I think that's really big."


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