Veteran cornerback Casey Hayward signed a two-year contract with the Falcons during the 2022 offseason but played just six games for the club before suffering a shoulder injury that ended his first season in Atlanta prematurely. Shortly after the Falcons swung a trade for former No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah in April, the club released Hayward with a failed physical designation.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Hayward has received full medical clearance and is ready to take part in his 12th NFL season. As of the time of this writing, there has been no reported interest in his services, but once Week 1 is in the books, that could change.
As a vested veteran, Hayward’s full 2023 salary would have been guaranteed if he were on an active roster for Week 1. Since that will not be the case, an interested club could sign him for what would likely be a modest sum and, if necessary, release him with minimal financial ramifications.
Given Hayward’s track record and the league-wide need for cornerback help, it would be fair to expect Hayward to find a new employer soon. In his last full season in 2021, Hayward started all 17 of the Raiders’ regular season contests, recording 46 tackles and nine passes defensed. Pro Football Focus considered him a top-15 corner that year, and he parlayed that performance into the above-referenced deal with Atlanta.
The Packers draftee, who just turned 34 yesterday, is unlikely to return to the elite form he exhibited during his peak years with the Chargers. During his five-year tenure with the Bolts from 2016-2020, Hayward earned two Pro Bowl nods, and he led the league with seven interceptions in 2016.
Still, Hayward yielded a meager 80.7 QB rating on passes thrown in his direction during his brief time with the Falcons last year, making it clear that he has something left in the tank. Even if he were to be deployed on more of a rotational basis, he could certainly be an asset to any number of CB depth charts.