It's a shame I don't get to eat good, fresh crab very often. It's not like Wisconsin is on the ocean, and even if it were, crab isn't exactly cheap.
Just because I don't eat it very often, however, doesn't mean I don't like crab. I love it actually. I wish I had the opportunity and the cash to splurge on it more often.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson is in much the same boat in free agency. I constantly see and hear how he rarely went after big-name, highly-priced free agents in years past, ergo he won't in 2014.
I don't necessarily buy that theory. Maybe it's a cosmic aligning of the stars, but you know what? Jairus Byrd just makes sense for the Packers to pursue in free agency.
Of course Byrd isn't going to come cheap, but more on the financial angle a little bit later.
In simplest terms, Byrd is the right player at the right time. Perhaps only in 2014 would a confluence of factors converge to make such a deal a bonafide, legitimate possibility.
For one, the Packers have a need at safety, and "need" is putting it mildly. Green Bay has a Grand Canyon sized void to fill at safety, and maybe Black Hole would be more apropos after getting zero interceptions from the position in 2013.
Morgan Burnett didn't play up to expectations last season, but he's not the biggest problem. At worst, he's the lesser of two evils. At best, he's a factor on a defense when paired next to good safety next to him. And most likely, he probably falls somewhere in between, a nice complementary player.
The burden is on the Packers to replace M.D. Jennings, a Canadian Football League talent masquerading as an NFL safety.
Byrd could be that guy. Is he Hall of Fame caliber? The jury is still out on that, but in five seasons, he's proved himself to be a perennial Pro Bowler, forcing an average of 6.6 turnovers per year. He's a rangy safety whose calling card is his coverage in an increasingly pass-happy NFL but also the type that doesn't embarrass himself as a tackler and run defender.
On top of his ample talents, Byrd has stayed largely healthy and hasn't hinted that he could be a character question mark. If the Packers are going to make such a gigantic investment, they can at least rest easy knowing Byrd isn't likely to get arrested or be suspended.
And whereas several free agents might dismiss Green Bay as a free-agent destination because of its small-market location and cold climate, Byrd is more likely to embrace the Frozen Tundra than the average Joe.
In a piece of trivia that's practically become common knowledge in these parts, Byrd played his high school football in nearby Pulaski when his father, Gill, was the Packers' director of player programs in the late nineties and early part of the new century.
Now we get to the tricky part: the price tag.
It's no secret Byrd wants to become the highest-paid safety in the league, and any team that wants to sign him is going to have to meet his demands.
Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry is currently the highest-paid safety, in terms of average annual salary, earning $8.34 million per season. Logic would say a deal averaging $8.5 million per season would make Byrd the new highest-paid player, but it's not that easy.
When the NFL announced a 7.5 percent raise in the salary cap from $123 million to $133 million in 2014, players entering free agency will want to see that 7.5 percent raise in their earnings as well.
Byrd has reportedly declined an offer of three years and $30 million dollars from the Buffalo Bills, but that hardly comes as a surprise as three years just isn't going to cut it.
Whether it takes a four-year, five-year, maybe even a six-year deal to secure Byrd remains to be seen, but the amount of guaranteed money will also factor into Byrd's decision. For example, Byrd might be willing to sacrifice one less year on his deal or a slightly lower annual salary in exchange for a higher amount of guaranteed money.
With the sixth-most salary cap space in the NFL and roughly $35 million available, the Packers have the funds available to be active in free agency, if they so choose. And maybe, just maybe they could get Byrd for something south of $10 million a year.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to signing Byrd is the "it only takes one" mantra. Theoretically, the Packers could out-bid 30 other NFL teams for the safety's services only to see the Oakland Raiders and their $64 million in available cap space offer Byrd ridiculous, can't-refuse type of money.
Granted, there are drawbacks to signing a player like Byrd. Re-signing Sam Shields flies out the window, as does any chance of re-upping players like James Jones, Mike Neal and James Starks. But on the flip side of the coin, an elite safety helps to cover up other deficiencies like cornerback and pass rush.
And by addressing safety in free agency, the Packers can instead focus on other positions of need in the first two days of the NFL Draft like tight end and linebacker.
It's also generally accepted that the Packers will look to offer contract extensions to wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb before the 2014 season is over, locking them up before they reach free agency.
And by signing Byrd, the task of extending both Nelson and Cobb becomes increasingly more difficult, although maybe not impossible. The tradeoff, however, is that the Packers would be adding another impact player, albeit at a different position.
Signing Byrd doesn't fix every problem area on the Packers roster, but for once the Packers can afford a high-priced free agent, and he'd instantly help a team whose Super Bowl window is currently open as long as Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews are in the prime of their careers.
Other holes would have to be patched by an incoming rookie class, but that's not much different than not signing Byrd and hoping a rookie safety pans out.
Anyway, here's to wishful thinking. I think I'll go make reservations at a seafood restaurant. Ted, if you're reading this, you're invited. I fancy Ted as a crab type of guy too.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
- Like Like
- 0 points