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New Orleans, strapped for cap space a few days ago, signs safety Jairus Byrd

The New Orleans Saints signed safety Jairus Byrd, the top free agent in many rankings, which is like a person finally paying off their credit cards and then celebrating by taking out a loan to buy an expensive new car.

Byrd got a six-year, $54 million deal with $28 million guaranteed from New Orleans, according to ESPN, shocking numbers considering the Saints were in such salary cap trouble a few weeks ago. Credit it to creative bookkeeping and the willingness to pay the massive bill down the road a bit.

The Saints were a surprise contender for Byrd on Tuesday, because they had to release multiple veterans in the past few weeks just to get a little bit under the cap. Defensive end Will Smith, defensive backs Jabari Greer and Roman Harper and receiver Lance Moore were let go. Running back Darren Sproles was told he'd be released too, but the Saints hesitated on that when they started to get some trade offers.

Most reports had the Saints about $2-3 million under the salary cap after those moves, and Sproles' release would clear another $3.5 million. It didn't seem like they'd use a majority of that precious cap room on one player, but that's basically what they did by signing Byrd.

The Saints will spread the cap hit of the $28 million bonus over the six years of the contract, and with a small base salary this year his 2014 cap hit will be palatable. But the bill will eventually come due. The Saints will deal with that down the line. For now, New Orleans added a very good free safety. He'll team with Kenny Vaccaro, a 2013 first-round pick who played very well as a rookie, to form one of the top safety duos in football. Sounds kind of like the Seattle plan with Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas ...

You can argue with the Saints' fiscal planning, but you can't debate that they ended up with a very good player in free agency, perhaps the best one available on the market.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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