The Atlanta Falcons are moving on from cornerback Casey Hayward.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on April 21 that the Falcons are releasing the veteran cornerback. The AJC’s Orlando Ledbetter confirmed the report.
As Ledbetter tweeted, the Falcons will save $5 million by releasing Hayward, who spent the 2022 season in Atlanta.
Hayward, though, only played in six games. He suffered a shoulder injury during Week 6 and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve. In those six games, Casey Hayward posted 17 combined tackles with 1 interception. His pick came against the defending champion Los Angeles Rams.
The Falcons signed Hayward to a two-year, $11 million contract last offseason. With his release, Atlanta has increased its salary cap space to nearly $14 million.
The departure of Hayward might make drafting a cornerback a bigger priority for the Falcons, but it probably won’t change the team’s draft strategy at No. 8.
General manager Terry Fontenot should still target the cornerbacks he already likes early in the first round. But the team has other needs, and the 2023 draft class is deep at cornerback. Fontenot could wait until Day 2 to replace Hayward.
Hayward, who will turn 34 in September, is entering his 12th season in the NFL. He spent the first four years of his career with the Green Bay Packers and then played five seasons for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Prior to signing with the Falcons, he played the 2021 season for the Las Vegas Raiders.
In 152 career games, including 118 starts, Hayward has recorded 448 combined tackles, including 13 for loss. He also has posted 25 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries and 112 pass defenses.
He returned two of his interceptions for touchdowns. Hayward made the Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro with the Chargers in 2016 and 2017.