The LA Chargers cut cornerback Casey Hayward on Saturday after five seasons. News of the release came as a slight surprise since the Chargers cut Malik Jefferson and Trai Turner a day earlier. Some assumed at that point that Hayward might be safe from the Pat McAfee branded “Massacre Week”.
Usually, Tom Telesco does make his pre-free agency cuts on the same day. But it’s clear the Chargers wanted Hayward to have his own moment with all he did for the team over the last half-decade:
thank you, case ? pic.twitter.com/dk9gXKErxq
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) March 13, 2021
Moving on from Hayward is ultimately the right move for a few key reasons.
1. Brandon Staley’s defensive scheme for the LA Chargers
This one was probably the true difference-maker in the decision. Regardless of the terminology of 3-4 vs. 4-3, Brandon Staley’s defense requires a lot of movement in the secondary. When watching the Rams, it was rare to see cornerbacks take 1 on 1 matchups throughout the whole game.
Many football fans were excited to see Davante Adams defended by Jalen Ramsey on every passing play in the Rams @ Packers playoff game, but that’s not what happened. Staley’s zone-heavy scheme did not have Ramsey shadowing Adams all of the time, unlike most traditional CB1 WR1 matchups.
Hayward has potential for a rebound season if he isn’t injured again. However, it’s clear that his best opportunity wouldn’t have been with the Chargers. A scheme that allows Hayward to stay on the outside and primarily shadow one receiver is what would play to his strengths the best. If Anthony Lynn and Gus Bradley stayed around, #26 might still be on this team.
Michael Davis’ athleticism (assuming they re-sign him) and Chris Harris’ versatility fit what Staley wants in his secondaries, leaving Hayward as the odd man out.
Hayward can probably still be a serviceable cornerback for a number of teams in the league, but he wasn’t a fit in LA with big changes coming.