At this point in the offseason, the most impactful outside free-agent acquisition for the Falcons has to be Casey Hayward, who signed a two-year, $11 million contract. He will not be the same player in 2022 as when he was an All-Pro in 2016 and 2017, but he still has plenty left in the tank.
After starting his career with the Packers, Hayward signed with the Chargers, where he thrived for five seasons before joining the rival Raiders on a one-year deal that he vastly over-performed.
Hayward started all 17 regular-season games, logged 46 tackles, broke up nine passes and had an interception. His coverage stats were excellent for a player of any age, allowing completions on just 57.1% of his 56 targets, and opposing quarterbacks cumulatively had a 91.9 passer rating when targeting him in 2021. The Falcons got a reliable veteran that can play man and zone coverage.
#Falcons Casey Hayward on why he chose Atlanta despite not looking like a major contender: "Who says we can't [compete]? Every time you go out there, you got a chance to win. No matter what people think, we're going to out and try to win, regardless of thoughts about the roster."
— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) March 31, 2022
It is impressive the kind of person and competitor Hayward is, but the reality is far from this quote. The Falcons will be lucky to match their win total from last year; I’d be shocked if Atlanta won six games. The personnel is just deficient compared to other rosters around the league. Hayward is the exact type of player fans want on their team — one who blocks out the outside noise and puts his head down, working every day. The culture Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot are trying to instill in this team is exactly what Hayward is emulating, but the rebuild is undeniable.
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