Five days after free agency opened, Casey Hayward’s inevitable departure from the Green Bay Packers became reality.
Hayward confirmed via text Sunday afternoon he will sign a three-year contract with the San Diego Chargers. His contract will pay $15.3 million over those three years, according to an NFL Network report. The guaranteed portion of his contract has not yet been reported.
Hayward, a 2012 second-round pick, spent his first four seasons in Green Bay. He burst onto the scene with six interceptions as a rookie, but his second season was almost entirely lost to a hamstring injury. Hayward has played all all 32 games the past two seasons since returning from the injury, gradually earning a bigger role for himself in the Packers secondary.
His 933 snaps were more than any Packers cornerback last season, and third most on the defense behind safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and linebacker Clay Matthews. Hayward showed his ball skills upon returning from the hamstring injury with three interceptions in 2014, though he did not have an interception last fall.
Hayward was especially effective covering receivers in the slot. More than 40 percent of his snaps came from the slot last season. While he has enough height and speed to play on the perimeter, Hayward's quickness is best suited for covering receivers in open field.
The Packers were not expected to re-sign Hayward. General manager Ted Thompson has done a good job using the draft to restock his team's secondary, spending first- and second-round picks on cornerbacks last season. The Packers are set at cornerback with Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. They also have a developmental player in LaDarius Gunter, and depth in the slot with safety Micah Hyde.
In San Diego, Hayward should join Jason Verrett to give the Chargers a duo of quality corners. The Chargers ranked 14th in the league with 237 passing yards allowed per game last season, eight spots behind the Packers.
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