The Los Angeles Chargers, like most NFL teams, are looking to create some additional room under the cap ahead of the beginning of the new league year, which kicks off on Wednesday. To do so, the Chargers released starting cornerback Casey Hayward, the team announced on Saturday.
Hayward was set to count for $11.75 million against the cap for the 2021 season, per overthecap.com, and releasing him will leave only a $2 million dead money charge on L.A.'s books, creating $9.75 million in new room. The move comes after the Chargers previously released guard Trai Turner, which cleared $11 million off their ledger.
Hayward, 31, played the first four years of his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers. He signed a three-year, $15.3 million contract with the Chargers in 2016, and immediately took a leap from being a sub-package player in Green Bay to being one of the best cornerbacks in all of football. He signed a three-year, $36 million extension in 2018, and ended up playing with the Chargers for five seasons, playing 78 and starting 75 of 80 possible contests. General manager Tom Telesco called the Hayward signing "one of the best" the franchise has ever made, in a statement announcing the corner's release.
The Chargers made a coaching change this offseason, switching from Anthony Lynn to former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, and it appears they will remake some of their roster as they attempt to retool for the Justin Herbert era. Clearing Hayward's cap hit gives them a bit more maneuverability, but does leave a bit of a hole in the secondary -- especially with fellow starting cornerback Chris Harris Jr. also in his 30s.
Hayward is no longer at his peak; but he's still a quality starting cornerback, so there should be plenty of interest in him on the open market. The fact that he will not count against the compensatory-pick formula could intensify that interest, as teams may prioritize players whom they can sign for a similar level of impact but allow them to keep future comp picks. This offseason's cap crunch figures to thin out the talent base on a lot of rosters.