Casey Hayward has found a new home, and he didn’t even need to leave the AFC West to do so.
Hayward has signed with the Las Vegas Raiders, the team announced Tuesday.
Drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Packers, Hayward spent the last five seasons in Southern California with the Chargers, where he became a Pro Bowler in 2016 and 2017. Hayward played in every regular-season game for the Chargers from 2016-2019 before missing two contests last season, his final with Los Angeles.
Hayward’s performance dropped significantly when viewing it through a Pro Football Focus lens. After posting a grade of at least 75.7 and a coverage grade of at least 74.5 in each season from 2014-2019, the 31-year-old corner finished with marks of 59.5 in both categories in 2020. Los Angeles released him in March just before the start of free agency in a move that could’ve been seen as motivated by both money and performance.
The Chargers followed suit by drafting Hayward’s replacement, Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr., in the second round Friday.
If you ask the Raiders, they’ll tell you they just landed a Pro Bowl corner. And factually, that’s correct — he just hasn’t been a Pro Bowl corner by definition since 2017.
Las Vegas, though, is pushing this addition as major, with its social team tweeting “You wanted him. We got him.” The account followed it up with some emojis to fit their opinion of their new pick-up:
🤩 🤩 🤩 pic.twitter.com/37fXpunlsg
At his best, Hayward is a highly effective corner. It’s just fair to wonder if, at 31, he still has it in him. He won’t be counted on to be the Raiders’ top corner, joining a secondary that includes Trayvon Mullen, 2020 first-rounder Damon Arnette, and veteran Rasul Douglas. Elsewhere in the team’s defensive backfield, the Raiders are releasing safety Jeff Heath on Wednesday, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.
Hayward can bring valuable experience to a unit that needs to be better in 2021, and make a few plays along the way. If anything, it’s a low-risk addition for the Raiders.
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