Wake-Up Call: Why the Eagles Passed On Byrd

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills

Jeffrey Lurie made it clear that if Chip Kelly wanted him to write a large check to land Jairus Byrd, he would have obliged.

The head coach, though, said his sights were set elsewhere.

“We looked at everybody,” said Kelly. “We did an extensive study, our coaches and personnel department on everybody that’s available. We all felt when it came down to it that Malcolm [Jenkins] was the best fit for what we do defensively and we were excited to get him. He was the number one guy that we went after and we got the number one guy we wanted.”

That’s a head-scratcher, at least on the surface. Byrd is largely considered the better football player. He’s been the superior playmaker [Jenkins has six interceptions in five NFL seasons; Byrd has 22 over that same time]. So what went into their thinking?

The money factor can’t be ignored. Byrd’s deal has $26.3 million in guaranteed cash. Jenkins’ has $8.5 million. But it wasn’t money alone that influenced the decision.

“If you’re going to pay a guy that sort of money, what is he going to do in your scheme?” said Howie Roseman. “And then how do you project them going forward, because you can’t pay a player in free agency for what they’ve done, you have to pay them for what they’re going to do. And then how are you going to use them? And are you going to change what you do for this particular player, and does that make sense?”

The argument can certainly be made that Byrd’s skill set can benefit just about any defensive scheme, and that if you need to make tweaks to accommodate such a player, you do it. But the Eagles seemed to have some questions about it.

Roseman also brought up measurables when talking in broader terms about free agents.

“Do they fit? Do they have the characteristics we’re looking for to build our team?” said Roseman. “In general, if you go out and sign a big money free agent and when you look at your draft board those are the guys maybe from a size, speed, length perspective at any position that you’re trying to stay away from. So now you’re kind of devoting all these resources when you’re trying to build your team a different way.”

This quote stood out to me. Byrd (5-10, 203) ran a 40-time of 4.68 coming out. It’s safe to say that the Eagles, when establishing guidelines for draft prospects at the safety position, are looking for players that are more fleet-of-foot. Jenkins (6-0, 204) was clocked at 4.53.

Part of it was money. Part of it was questions about scheme fit. Part of it could be that he wasn’t a measurables match.

And part of it was a genuine fondness for what Jenkins brings to the table.

“I think his ability to be a free safety and a strong safety. His ability to cover. His football IQ,” said Kelly. “Those are all factors that kind of led him to be our number one guy that we were going after.”

We’ll find out soon enough if the Eagles were sound in judgment.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles and Mark Sanchez agree to terms.

Sheil with some takeaways from Orlando.

Kelly was on hand to check out Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans at their Pro Day.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

In his draft diary for the Oregonian, Ducks defensive lineman Taylor Hart reveals that he’s coming to Philly for a visit.

 “[I]n April teams can fly you out for a visit and see you. So, I’ll be flying out to Philadelphia here on April 2. They’re the only one so far that has contacted me.

“It was obviously cool to see (Philadelphia coaches Chip Kelly and Jerry Azzinaro) again at the combine, it had been a while but it will be nice to go out and see them again. It’s nice to always know the head coach and the defensive line coach pretty well, so I don’t know if it makes it easier but it’s nice to see them again. It’s meeting a lot of other coaches, too, so it’s just nice to have them be the first one.

Doug Farrar of SI.com gives the Eagles an ‘A’ for their work in free agency.

The Eagles scored big, and they started by re-signing their own key players in left tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce, and receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. The ongoing soap opera with receiver DeSean Jackson hasn’t come to a head yet, so we’ll leave this grade where it is for now. Getting cornerback Nolan Carroll from Miami was a big deal, because Philly’s secondary was a flat-out mess last season. The Eagles also overhauled their safety rotation with Malcolm Jenkins, and getting Darren Sproles in a trade with the Saints should add some interesting firepower to Chip Kelly’s offense.

COMING UP

Eagles players react to the DeSean Jackson trade talk.

 

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