New England Patriots rumors: 2 free agents that could replace Jackson

Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. (29) (Mandatory Credit: The Enquirer)
Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. (29) (Mandatory Credit: The Enquirer) /
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New England Patriots
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) (Mandatory Credit: The Enquirer) /

New England Patriots free agent cornerback target No. 2: Charvarius Ward

Now right off the bat, it’s clear that if the Patriots end up letting Jackson walk, they aren’t going to be able to find an identical replacement in terms of production on the free agent market. Jackson is going to be the best cornerback on the market if he makes it there; he knows that, the Patriots know that, and the rest of the league knows that. You aren’t necessarily going to replace him by just signing another All-Pro corner, but by strengthening other areas of the roster.

But that also goes without saying there’s going to be a huge hole to fill, meaning if he does leave, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring in another cornerback to help the cause. One of the potential options is Charvarius Ward, who has quietly turned himself into one of the Kansas City Chiefs top cornerbacks over the past four seasons.

Ward obviously is not the same caliber of player Jackson is, but he has a similar physical profile (6’1, 195 pounds) that could ensure the Patriots don’t necessarily have to alter their defensive scheme. After struggling in 2020, Ward has a nice bounce back campaign in 2021, as he deflected 10 passes, hauled in two interceptions, and held opposing passers to just a 79.4 passer rating on throws his way.

The Chiefs didn’t have a super strong secondary in 2021, meaning Ward was typically covering one of the opposing teams top wideouts. For the most part, he did a pretty solid job, although he did allow four touchdown passes in coverage for the second season in a row. Pairing Ward up with Jalen Mills on the outside would give New England a decent top cornerback duo that would atleast help the secondary stay afloat.

Ward is still young (entering his age 26 season) meaning a three or four year deal at around $10 million per year is probably what he will be looking for. That’s probably about half of what Jackson would command on the open market. He’s not the same caliber player as Jackson, but Ward has the physical traits needed to succeed in New England’s defensive scheme, and he could be a cost effective replacement if Jackson departs.

New England Patriots
Cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. #29 of the Las Vegas Raiders (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images) /

New England Patriots free agent cornerback target No. 1: Casey Hayward Jr.

The Las Vegas Raiders had a very turbulent season that resulted in a lot of turnover. But on defense, Casey Hayward Jr. was one of the lone sources of consistency for the Raiders throughout the season. Hayward had a nice bounce back season after a rough close to his tenure with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, and he looks set to cash in on a nice deal in free agency now.

For those who don’t remember, Hayward developed into one of the best cornerbacks in the league during his prime with the Chargers, earning a pair of Second Team All-Pro appearences and Pro Bowl berths. However, Hayward would end up losing a step along the way, and his play declined to the point where the Chargers eventually cut him, leading to the Raiders picking him up.

Hayward stepped up helped lead the Raiders to the playoffs in their topsy-turvy 2021 season. He only had one interception and eight passes defended, but he was also only targeted 56 times over the 17 game season. While his numbers when getting the ball thrown at him aren’t great (91.9 passer rating, 57.1 completion percentage) Hayward doesn’t often allow his opponent to get much separation, which is a good sign for a veteran corner.

Hayward will turn 33 early next season, meaning he can’t play man coverage the way he used to early in his career, which is fine. With Mills and Jonathan Jones the top two corners in a scenario where Jackson leaves, New England wasn’t going to play as much man as they liked in the first place. Hayward is a savvy veteran who understands what it takes to limit opposing offenses, and with guys like Jackson and Devin McCourty potentially leaving, that cannot be overlooked.

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Hayward is coming off a successful one year deal with the Raiders, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him take another one year deal this offseason. He will probably look for a fully guaranteed deal within the $6-8 million range, which the New England Patriots can easily afford. Hayward would be a solid veteran addition who could come in and help lead a potentially ailing secondary, all for a fairly cheap price.