Is there any argument that Casey Hayward was the best free-agent signing in the league last year?
Hayward was brought in well into the free-agent signing period last year, meaning many teams had the chance to bring him in. The Chargers decided to do just that, with the thought that he would be a No. 3 cornerback behind Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers.
But when Verrett went down with a season-ending injury early in the year, Hayward was forced into extended playing time and he ended up being better than anyone thought he’d be.
He led the NFL with seven interceptions en route to earning a trip to the Pro Bowl.
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As a result, some may not see this as that bold of a predicition, but I say that Hayward will repeat that feat and lead the league in picks again. He did it once, so what makes it such a bold prediction?
Here’s what makes it bold. Only two players in NFL history have ever accomplished this feat. Bill Bradley of the Philadelphia Eagles did it in 1971 and 1972 and Everson Walls of the Dallas Cowboys led the league in interceptions in 1981 and 1982. Hayward would be doing something that no player has done in 35 years. And I think he could realistically accomplish this.
Verrett will be back on the field for the Chargers and though much of this prediction rides on his health, I feel that teams will still see him as the more dangerous player to throw against and nonchalantly attack Hayward, who will make them pay. In addition, under the direction of Gus Bradley, Chargers defensive backs coach Ron Milus will employ a more aggressive style out of the secondary this season that could play even further into Hayward’s strengths.
He possesses great anticipation and solid ball skills. Opponents thinking that Hayward’s seven interceptions in 2016 were a fluke will be in for a long day if they test him too often.
With the caliber of cornerbacks in today’s NFL such as Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and more, this would be a huge accomplishment for Hayward.