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    Casey Hayward Jr. Free Agency Profile: Potential landing spots, contract situation, stats, and more

    If Raiders CB Casey Hayward Jr. chooses to return for an 11th NFL season, he should have plenty of options for a new contract in free agency.

    Casey Hayward Jr. turns 33 the day after the 2022 NFL season opens (presumably in Los Angeles). That’s not old for a cornerback. It’s ancient. And yet he enters free agency as Pro Football Network’s No. 25 available player and fifth-best available cornerback. Will he have a bevy of suitors as he searches for a new contract?

    Casey Hayward Jr.: Free Agency Overview

    That ranking is no lifetime achievement award. Hayward earned it with a characteristically professional 10th NFL season. There wasn’t a noticeable dropoff in performance in 2021. He’s not the same player now as when he was an All-Pro in 2016 and 2017, but Hayward is still plenty good enough to help most any NFL defense.

    Recapping Hayward’s 2021 season

    After five excellent years with the Chargers, Hayward joined the rival Raiders on a one-year, $2.5 million contract that he vastly overperformed.

    Only one defender — Trevon Moehrig — played a higher percentage of Las Vegas’ defensive snaps (94.2%). But Hayward wasn’t just some place-filler. He was a high-level contributor.

    He started all 17 regular-season games plus Vegas’ Wild Card round loss. During the regular season, he logged 46 tackles, broke up 9 passes, had an interception, and was credited with a safety. Hayward’s coverage stats were excellent for a player of any age.

    He allowed completions on just 57.1% of his 56 targets. Teams tested him deep often — Hayward’s defensive average depth of target was 14.7 yards — but he gave up just 7.6 yards per target. Opposing quarterbacks cumulatively had a 91.9 passer rating when targeting Hayward in 2021.

    Hayward’s contract estimate and salary cap implications

    With nearly $47 million in career earnings — including over $32 million in the last four years alone — Hayward’s prime wealth-building years are behind him. But that doesn’t mean he has to accept the veteran minimum ($1.1 million) either. His $2.5 million salary from 2021 should be the absolute floor in 2022, particularly with the salary cap jumping by roughly 15%. In truth, he’s worth twice that much. The Raiders, with a shade under $20 million in projected space, can afford him.

    Possible landing spots for Hayward

    The Raiders have a new coach (Josh McDaniels) and a new general manager (Dave Ziegler). Neither has an obvious tie to Hayward, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they wanted to bring in their own guys.

    If the Raiders do allow Hayward to walk, he shouldn’t hurt for options. Among the championship contenders with a need at corner: the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, and San Francisco 49ers.

    What they’re saying about Hayward

    “Casey has always been a tough guy to go against. Even in camp last year, when I got to go against him, he was really good at man coverage and zone coverage. He’s been stepping up and making some big plays. I’m not surprised at all by that. He’s always been a super smart, intelligent guy, who’s really athletic, too. He fits perfectly in that scheme, and he’s done a really good job.” — Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert on Casey Hayward Jr., October 2021.

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