Saints lose Jenkins to Eagles, Byrd to visit team

The Saints have lost safety Malcolm Jenkins, according to the Eagles. And they’re being quite aggressive in their attempts to replace him, courting one of the best free agents on the open market.

Jairus Byrd, most recently with Buffalo, will visit New Orleans on Tuesday evening, a league source told The Advocate.

Philadelphia confirmed that it inked Jenkins to a three-year deal about an hour after the free agency signing period began.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported Jenkins’ deal with the Eagles and Byrd’s visit. Citing an unnamed source, Schefter said Jenkins’ deal was for three years and was worth $16.25 million. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane said it was for $16.5 million with $8.5 million guaranteed.

Philadelphia had for a while been pegged as a possible landing spot for Jenkins.

Jenkins, New Orleans’ first-round draft pick in 2009, was a defensive captain last season and ranked among the leaders in tackles, pass breakups and interceptions for a team that ranked second against the pass. He also had 2.5 sacks and four tackles behind the line of scrimmage last year and helped the Saints win their lone Super Bowl title at the end of his rookie season.

The former Saint logged onto his Twitter shortly after word broke that he was leaving New Orleans. He expressed excitement about joining Philadelphia and said he was thankful for his tenure in black and gold.

“Very excited about being a part of the @Eagles organization!” he wrote on Twitter. “I loved every minute I spent in New Orleans but all good things come to an end.

“Who Dat fans I hope I continue to have your love and support as we part ways! Thank you for everything!”

Jenkins was one of eight players left from the Saints’ Super Bowl team and the last defender from that squad. Two other championship players are unrestricted free agents: wide receiver Robert Meachem and right tackle Zach Strief. Those under contract for now are quarterback Drew Brees, wideout Marques Colston, right guard Jahri Evans, punter Thomas Morstead and running back Pierre Thomas.

Jenkins’ departure isn’t a complete surprise. When Tuesday began, New Orleans was estimated to be less than $3 million under the 2014 salary cap of $133 million. That was the third lowest cap figure in the NFL, and it didn’t leave the Saints in a position to compete with an offer like the one the Eagles made.

According to the Eagles, general manager Howie Roseman said his organization had its eyes on Jenkins for “quite a while.” Coach Chip Kelly added that he admired Jenkins’ “versatility” and called him “a sharp kid” who is “ultra competitive.”

Yet it also wouldn’t be a shocker for the Saints to restructure contracts on the books as necessary to create enough cap space to lure Byrd to New Orleans.

The news about Byrd broke almost immediately after word of Jenkins’ departure. Byrd, who’s got six years of NFL experience, is a three-time Pro Bowl pick. He missed some time last year with a hurt foot but nonetheless had four interceptions and six pass breakups and got in on 48 tackles in 11 games for a Bills team that finished 6-10.

Aside from Jenkins, the Saints had 2013 first-round draft pick Kenny Vaccaro and Rafael Bush at safety. Both played well last year as the Saints reached the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. But the addition of Byrd would certainly be a welcome one for a team that was fourth-last in the NFL in 2013 with 19 takeaways. Byrd’s four interceptions would’ve put him in a tie for the team lead with star cornerback Keenan Lewis.