Report: Saints to release safety Jairus Byrd after 3 seasons

METAIRIE, La. -- The Saints will release safety Jairus Byrd at the start of free agency, according to the NFL Network, ending his disappointing three-year run in New Orleans.

Byrd appeared to confirm the news when he replied to a farewell tweet from Saints teammate Kenny Vaccaro:

Byrd, who was a three-time Pro Bowler early in his career with the Buffalo Bills, signed a blockbuster six-year deal with the Saints in 2014 worth up to $54 million. But he suffered a major knee injury early in that 2014 season and never quite returned to form.

Byrd, 30, was scheduled to make $7.8 million in salary and bonuses this year -- all of which the Saints will save. However, Byrd's contract will still count for $8 million in dead money against the Saints' salary cap from past bonuses that were already paid out to him.

It is unclear if the Saints will take the entire $8 million cap hit this year or spread it out over two years by designating Byrd as a post-June 1 release. Byrd's salary-cap number was scheduled to be $11.2 million this year, so the Saints will save either $3.2 million or $7.8 million against the cap.

The Saints already had nearly $30 million in cap space to work with before releasing Byrd, so they are expected to be aggressive spenders in free agency, as they continue to try to revamp a defense that has struggled for much of the past five years.

Byrd, however, will serve as a cautionary tale, since he remains the most expensive defensive free-agent newcomer the Saints have signed in franchise history.

Byrd had just three interceptions in three years as a free safety with the Saints, though two of them came in Week 16 last season as he was playing his best football in New Orleans during the second half of the campaign.

Byrd's strong finish last season made it seem possible he could stay in New Orleans at a reduced price. Apparently the Saints were ready to move on, though, especially after drafting promising free safety Vonn Bell in the second round last year.

The Saints used a heavy dose of three-safety alignments last season with Vaccaro, Byrd and Bell. Byrd played in all 16 games, starting 15 of them.

Early in his career, Byrd was one of the NFL's greatest turnover producers. The 5-foot-10, 203-pound player had 22 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles in his first five seasons with the Bills, after being drafted in the second round out of Oregon in 2009.