ORLANDO, Fla. — When he lost his marquee safety to his old boss’ team in free agency, Bills coach Doug Marrone had only a few things to say to the Saints about their new acquisition, Jairus Byrd.
“You’re going to love him in the locker room; you’re going to love him in the field. He’ll do everything he can,” said Marrone, the Saints’ offensive coordinator during coach Sean Payton’s first three seasons in New Orleans. “You’re going to love him in the community. There’s not a bad thing to say about Jairus Byrd.”
Speaking to reporters at the NFL’s annual owners meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes hotel Tuesday morning, Marrone made it clear that it pained him to be unable to retain Byrd, a safety whose 22 interceptions since entering the league as Buffalo’s second-round draft pick in 2009 are the most among players at his position.
The Bills fashioned what Marrone considered to be “a great offer” for Byrd, who played under a one-year franchise tag in 2013 but hit unrestricted free agency March 11. However, soon after the free agency signing period began, Byrd signed a six-year, $54 million deal with $28 million guaranteed — the most lucrative contract for a safety in NFL history.
“Obviously, there was a better offer out there and Jairus took it,” Marrone said. “I don’t blame him.”
The Saints heaped big money at Byrd in hopes that he’d improve the one flaw on a defense that ranked fourth in the NFL in 2013 — it tallied the fourth-fewest takeaways (19).
It sounded Tuesday like Marrone believed the Saints made a good bet with Byrd.
“He’s a proven playmaker in this league and he’ll be very, very successful,” Marrone said. “He hustles his butt off, and he puts himself in position to make those (takeaway) plays, and that’s a credit to him.”
Moore sold on titles
The Steelers’ pitch to former Saints wide receiver Lance Moore during a recent free agent visit was simple, as Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin recalled.
The team walked Moore past a case displaying the Steelers’ six Super Bowl trophies and said they would like his help in placing a seventh in there.
“We just told him the truth, and that’s what we tell all free agents: who we are, how we do business, how we potentially see them fitting,” said Tomlin, who’s responsible for the newest of those six trophies. “I think it fell in line with some of the things that he’s interested in doing as a professional.”
In an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday morning, Moore assured it was.
“At this point in my career, that’s why I’m here — I want to win,” he told his hosts, Ross Tucker and Amani Toomer.
Released by the Saints on March 7, Moore on Tuesday officially signed a two-year contract he agreed to a few days earlier. USA Today’s Tom Pelissero reported it was worth up to $3 million and included a $645,000 signing bonus.
N.O. lets Ryan ‘be him’
Jets coach Rex Ryan — the twin of Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan — took a minute Tuesday to explain why his brother loves New Orleans as fervently as the city loves him, evidenced by his well-documented celebration of St. Patrick’s Day at the Irish Channel parade on March 15.
“They let him be him,” Rex said of Rob, who donned a tux, chewed a cigar, carried a beer and took photos with countless people at the parade. “It’s a town that’s embraced him, and he’s embraced that community, and it’s great both ways there.”
Saints mourn Wilson
Shortly after news broke that Bills owner Ralph Wilson died at the age of 95 on Tuesday, Byrd wrote via Twitter: “R.I.P mr. Wilson ... Thank you doesn’t describe how truly grateful I am for the opportunity you gave me to play a game I love.”
In a statement, Saints owner Tom Benson called Wilson one of the NFL’s “visionaries” and “a valued friend,” and the team expressed condolences to his family.
Co-owner Rita Benson LeBlanc added: “Ralph Wilson Jr. was a passionate believer in the NFL and the integrity of the shield.”