Kevin Byard has earned two Pro Bowls and helped propel the Tennessee Titans to multiple playoff appearances, establishing himself as one of the league’s best safeties in the process. But is the eight-year veteran suddenly facing a shaky future in Nashville?
Titans’ Decision, Plus Kevin Byard’s No-Show, Fuels Speculation on Future
Byard hasn’t been with the Titans for organized team activities (OTAs) during the week of May 22. Head coach Mike Vrabel confirmed Byard has been absent from this period.
While veterans like Byard have the option to skip the voluntary workouts, there’s still fuel to speculate the safety and the Titans could be heading toward separation.
Back on March 17, ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported the Titans approached the safety about taking a pay cut.
“But the Pro Bowl safety does not believe his play warrants a decrease in salary,” Schefter added.
Titans general manager Ran Carthon later confirmed with Nashville reporters on April 24, before the NFL Draft, that the team asked Byard to take a pay cut. But again, Byard is yet to accept the Titans’ terms. He is set to earn $13.6 million for 2023 and for 2024. He doesn’t become a free agent until 2025, when his five-year, $70.5 million deal runs out.
While Byard is a no-show, Vrabel said Tuesday that he has stayed in contact with the defender.
“Saw him at the golf course Sunday. He looks great,” Vrabel said. “And we had a great conversation.”
Was it the kind of conversation where Vrabel believes Byard will eventually rejoin the Titans?
“I expect him to be here at OTAs,” Vrabel said. “I would expect him at some point.”
However, the Titans have gone from the rumblings surrounding a possible trade involving star running back Derrick Henry to now dealing with Byard’s situation — the latter pertaining to a pillar of their defense and one who even has the respect of, arguably, the league’s best safety.
Derwin James: Byard Is Biggest Threat to Title of Best Safety
Speaking with actor/comedian Kevin Hart on “Cold as Balls” on the LOL Network, Los Angeles Chargers Pro Bowl safety Derwin James — ranked as PFN’s No. 1 safety ahead of the 2023 season — cited two defenders in the league who can make the ground shift at any time and are the biggest threats at safety.
“Budda Baker, that’s a dog,” James said, followed by, “I’d say Kevin Byard.”
James has earned three Pro Bowls since his arrival to the league out of Florida State in 2018. Baker has the most appearances among the trio with five, including four consecutive trips to the NFL’s all-star contest.
Byard, though, has 20 more career interceptions in comparison to James and Baker, as both have seven for their careers.
Unlike Baker and Byard, James never faced questions about his future with his franchise during the 2023 offseason. And as Baker became a subject of trade rumblings, there were analysts who shared the thought of the Cardinals and Titans making a swap between the two safeties.
Both remain on their respective teams. But for Byard, his absence and pay-cut chatter are generating new thoughts of a change in Nashville.
Releasing Byard can save the Titans $14.1 million in cap room if he’s a post-June 1 move. A trade, especially if done by the November deadline, could potentially add extra future draft options as the Titans are set at just five picks for 2024. With Byard absent, the Titans have a new star situation to address with minicamp and training camp on deck.