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'Winning culture' attracted Byrd to Saints

3/12/2014

METAIRIE, La. -- Jairus Byrd said it was the "winning culture" that drew him to the New Orleans Saints in free agency.

Byrd obviously had a number of interested suitors once he hit the open market. But he scheduled his first visit to New Orleans and was barely off the plane before he agreed to a six-year contract. Obviously it didn't hurt that the Saints offered a whopping $54 million, with $28 million guaranteed, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

"The winning culture. What coach [Sean] Payton has done and what Drew Brees has done here," Byrd said when asked why he chose the Saints during a conference call with the New Orleans media on Wednesday.

Byrd said he likes the "yin and yang" relationship he sees between the Saints' dynamic offense and up-and-coming defense.

"Anytime you have that explosive offense, it always helps," Byrd said. "If you're a guy on defense and you know a team is able to get leads on people, jump out to early leads, that bodes well for guys like me who want to get turnovers and create turnovers because it makes another team one dimensional. That's a really big factor and what allowed me to weigh all my options and think about what the best situation was for myself."

The idea of forcing turnovers must be music to the Saints' ears. As good as their defense was last year (fourth in the NFL in yards allowed, second in pass defense), they struggled to force turnovers during the second half of the season. They finished fourth from the bottom in the league standings with just 19 takeaways.

Byrd, meanwhile, has snagged 22 interceptions and forced 11 fumbles during his five-year career.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Byrd's 22 interceptions rank second in the NFL over that span, behind only cornerback Asante Samuel (25).

"That's what I pride myself being able to do is create turnovers -- force fumbles or whatever it might be," Byrd said. "That's something I'm looking forward to coming in and doing. Just doing what I normally do -- and that's what I do."

Byrd didn't reveal too many details about how the deal came together so quickly. He said his agent Eugene Parker and Saints contract negotiator Khai Harley worked out the finer points.

But Byrd said he made the choice to make his first visit to New Orleans because of how much he liked the potential fit.

Byrd said he hadn't had a chance to talk specifics with new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan yet (they were planning to meet shortly after his conference call once Ryan and coach Sean Payton returned from Alabama's pro day). But Byrd said he got a good firsthand impression of the Saints' defense when the Bills lost to New Orleans 35-17 in Week 8 last season.

"Just from watching, it seems aggressive and attacking," said Byrd, who also liked the impression he got from New Orleans' home-crowd atmosphere in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"That was big. Playing here last year, I saw how the atmosphere was. It was electric," Byrd said. "They're really behind their team. The Dome was rocking when I was here. They feed off that, and I think that's really big. Anytime you're playing football on defense you always want to have that noise. That's big."