Over the weekend, three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd rejected a multiyear contract with the Buffalo Bills. Reports are that the Bills will not franchise him again, which will make him a free agent.
The Bears need help at the safety position. Chris Conte and Major Wright ranked 82nd and 86th, respectively, out of 86 players. Could the team go after Byrd?
Byrd’s presence would be an immediate upgrade the secondary, an area very important with all the top quarterbacks in the NFC North. There are also other safeties like Chris Clemons, but if Emery wants to make a splash, Byrd would be it.
Even though the new salary cap was raised by $10 million to $133 million, the Bears would still need to make some cuts to free up money. They are currently just over $9.5 million under the new cap. The Bears are expected to cut Julius Peppers, saving them $9.8 million. If they also cut Earl Bennett ($2.45 million) and Adam Podlesh ($1.025 million) then they would have about $22.8 million to work with. There is a possibility also of Michael Bush ($1.85 million) and Chris Conte ($1.4 million), but I do not see a better option at fullback than Bush, and Emery recently spoke to the media about keeping Conte, though I do not know why.
The Bears presumably would already have their priorities for free agency set. Byrd felt that there was enough interest out there for him to reject a deal that would have made him one of the top-paid safeties in the league for part of it. Perhaps he got wind that some playoff contender is interested in him?
Certainly, signing Byrd would help make the Bears, who have missed the playoffs in the last week two seasons in a row, a stronger playoff contender. His signing and another (we are looking at you, Michael Bennett) would be that big splash Emery is looking for to bring back the menacing Bears defense of two seasons ago. The salary cap may be tricky, but Emery is a master at cap-ology so he could find a way. Bears fans are hoping he can work some magic.