casey hayward giants
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers have released cornerback Casey Hayward. Should he be on the Giants’ list of free-agent targets?

Ryan Honey

Another veteran cornerback is on the market.

On Saturday, the Chargers announced they released Casey Hayward. Los Angeles had employed him for five seasons, two of which were years when Hayward earned a Pro Bowl bid and a spot on the AP All-Pro second team (2016 and 2017).

He’s not entirely up there in age — he’ll be 32 this September. He’ll surely find a new team to take his talents to, and the Giants could indeed be on the list of potential landing spots.

It’s clear Big Blue is set at the top cornerback position. James Bradberry underwent a superb 2020 season and earned his inaugural Pro Bowl nod. That No. 2 outside corner role, however, is uncertain. Isaac Yiadom was inconsistent last year and it’s very much unclear if Julian Love or Darnay Holmes will be trusted to fill the position. Ryan Lewis could’ve ended up being the guy, but injuries plagued a 2020 campaign in which he appeared in just five games and now he’s set to be a restricted free agent.

The Giants may target a cornerback in the second round of the draft or potentially at No. 11 overall in the first if they decide not to acquire an offensive weapon like they should. That rookie corner will need time to develop though; the organization likely doesn’t want to go through another DeAndre Baker-type situation in which a first-year defensive back starts and just gets picked on every game.

While that cornerback ultimately learns the position in more of a situational role, a veteran cornerback, like Hayward, could take over the starting job on a short-term basis.

Hayward is experienced and still carries the ability to portray on-field talent. He recorded a superb 83.0 Pro Football Focus grade just two years ago and allowed quarterbacks to complete just 49.4% of passes for a combined 93.6 rating in 2020.

Grouping him with Patrick Graham’s slate of defensive backs — Bradberry, Holmes, Xavier McKinney, Jabrill Peppers, and Logan Ryan — could be beneficial for a defense that impressed many last year. The Giants could then draft someone like Syracuse corner Ifeatu Melifonwu at No. 42 overall in the second round (ESNY chose Melifonwu for that pick in last month’s early Giants 7-round mock draft).

And since it would only be a short-term stop for Hayward, it’s beneficial to know he wouldn’t be expensive. His average salary in his most recent contract was a little over $11 million — given he’s on the wrong side of 30 years old, the Giants could likely acquire him for under $10 million per year.

Let’s say: one-year, $7.5 million? For what it’s worth, the ever-versatile Logan Ryan originally signed a one-year, $7.5 million contract prior to his agreed three-year extension in December.

Comparing Hayward to Yiadom (the Giants’ potential current answer at the position) brings you to the fact he’s more talented, experienced, and reliable, and while he’d be more expensive, the organization wouldn’t need to break the bank.

Cap space must be cleared regardless of what the Giants potentially offer him though. The team currently carries a little over $3.1 million in space and it still may need to re-sign Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson as well as keep money for other possible free-agent acquisitions.