Giants could reunite recently-cut superstar safety with new defensive coordinator in free agency

Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard (31) (New York Giants)
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants could soon be in the market for a new safety with Xavier McKinney being an impending free agent. If the Giants fail to extend McKinney on a new deal, they could pivot to a player familiar with new defensive coordinator Shane Bowen as a potential replacement in free agency.

The Giants could look to reunite Kevin Byard with new DC Shane Bowen this offseason

The Philadelphia Eagles released veteran safety Kevin Byard on Friday afternoon in an effort to create salary cap space. Byard, one of the NFL’s elite safeties, spent the beginning of his career with the Tennessee Titans, establishing himself as a top ballhawk in the league. He was one of the top players in Bowen’s defense from 2021 to 2023 when the Giants’ new defensive coordinator was filling the same position in Tennessee.

The Giants could aim to reunite Byard with Bowen this offseason, potentially upgrading their secondary by plugging him into the lineup alongside McKinney, or as a replacement for their home-grown talent who could land a new contract elsewhere.

What could Byard bring to the Giants’ defense?

Throughout his career, Byard has been one of the best defensive backs in the NFL. He’s been named a First-Team All-Pro twice in his career (2017 and 2021) and has tallied up an incredible 28 career interceptions in nine seasons.

This past year, the Titans traded Byard away to the Eagles mid-way through the 2023 season. He was still productive for Philadelphia, totaling 75 combined tackles and one interception in 10 games. However, the Eagles’ defense fell apart down the final stretch of the season and Byard’s talent was not enough to save them.

Despite the Eagles’ downward spiral, Byard still performed well and proved to have plenty left in the tank at 30 years old. He finished the year with a 74.0 overall Pro Football Focus grade, finishing No. 25 in the NFL at his position.

At 30, Byard is expected to begin his regression soon, but it has not happened yet. He’s still a valuable and productive player who rarely misses any time. Byard has been on the field for 1,000 or more snaps every year since 2017. Availability can be the best ability in the NFL and signing Byard would give the Giants another reliable player in their secondary.

The Giants will be running far more zone coverage in 2024 under Bowen. His defensive scheme requires a lot from his secondary and frequently deploys extra defensive backs on the field in nickel and dime personnel packages. Adding more talent to the back end of the defense will be a priority for the Giants and Byard stands out as one of the top players on the open market.

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