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Plugged-in beat writer Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune suggests defensive coordinator Rob Ryan might be setting the table to show more three-safety sets next season, something they rolled out as a wrinkle during 2013. Season-ending injuries to outside linebackers Will Smith and Victor Butler forced the Saints to sample a 4-2-5 base in Week 1 win over the Falcons.
Today, Harper and Jenkins are out the door, but Bush has been kept around to do much more than warm the bench behind Byrd and Vaccaro.
Payton also acknowledged, "I think (the mentality of finding a safety) has changed," before praising Byrd as "one of those players that seems to be around the ball a lot."
New Orleans was a surprise landing spot for Byrd, largely because the Saints were seen as a salary cap-strapped club focused on trimming veteran salary. Instead, they swooped in and handed the former Bills ball-hawk a six-year deal worth up to $54 million. That's big bucks thrown at a so-called "devalued" position when Ryan already stated he has one of the NFL's best overall safeties in second-year man Vaccaro.
Payton acknowledged that Vaccaro is set for a more defined role this season after playing all over the field in 2013, but he's a lock to be on the field full time. Judging by what New Orleans has done at the position, we'd agree with Holder's theory that a three-safety alignment will be much more than a gimmick for the Saints come September.