The 2021 free agency period may not see as much action as it has in recent years due to the limited cap floor teams will be operating with. In fact, the lack of cap space could force clubs to release a few veterans in order to get some breathing room. Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward is one of those players and the Jacksonville Jaguars should target him if he becomes a cap casualty.
A two-time Pro Bowler, Hayward is set to count $11,750,000 against the cap in 2021, and releasing him would free up $9.75 million with a $2 million dead money hit. Although the ‘Bolts’ are projected to have around $23 million in cap room, they may be tempted to move on from Hayward in an attempt to have more cap flexibility.
A second-round pick in 2012, Hayward spent the first four years of his career with the Green Bay Packers before signing with the Chargers in 2016. In nine seasons, the Vanderbilt product has logged 385 total tackles (ten for a loss), two forced fumbles, a staggering 100 passes defensed, and 23 interceptions. Also, he just allowed a 49.4 percent completion rate when targeted last season, so it’s clear he can still perform at a high level even though he’s 31.
Why the Jacksonville Jaguars should make a play for Hayward if available.
It’s not a sure thing Los Angeles will release Hayward. They have a new head coach in Brandon Staley and their front office will surely want to evaluate every player on the roster before making a decision. Staley’s defensive background could prompt the Chargers to retain the veteran cornerback but if they move on from him, the Jaguars should target him.
Other than last season, Hayward has gotten positive Pro Football Focus grades in coverage. Moreover, he’s missed just two games in the last seven years, something that could entice the Jaguars to pursue him, as they lost their three top cornerbacks to injuries.
There should be a market for Hayward if the Chargers release him, but teams will be working with a limited budget and the Jaguars can outbid them all. If his contract demands aren’t too outlandish, the Jags should definitely make a play for him. After all, Jacksonville will be a top destination for free agents this offseason.