Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard, who is entering the final season of his rookie deal, is going to make a lot of money on his next contract.
And rightfully so. Byard, who reached the Pro-Bowl in 2017, is one of the most underrated defensive players in the NFL.
He’s so underrated, in fact, that Deion Sanders called Byard a “fan” during a Twitter exchange last fall.
While Sanders might not be familiar with Byard (likely due to playing in a small market), the rest of the NFL is becoming very familiar with the former Middle Tennessee standout. Byard faced 22 fewer targets in 2018 than he did in 2017.
📈 Kevin Byard pic.twitter.com/FXYki7X3Rx
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 30, 2019
Byard will almost certainly be rewarded by the Titans for his stellar play at some point before the 2020 season.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable for Byard to hold out of mini-camps and/or training camp to force the Titans to extend him now, much like offensive lineman Taylor Lewan did a year ago (Lewan, who was playing on his fifth year option, received an extension after holding out of mandatory OTA’s, but reported to training camp on time). But Byard won’t be taking that approach. While he wants a new contract, he’s content to let the situation play out organically.
Byard recently told Sports Illustrated “I understand it’s a business”, adding “They can pay this offseason, they can play this year out and try to franchise me. I try to just keep my mind off that stuff because I feel like it can almost drive you crazy.”
Kenny Vacarro, Byard’s teammate since last season, told Sports Illustrated that Byard is the best safety in the league and should be the highest paid safety in the NFL.
Sports Illustrated projected that a longterm deal for Byard could cost over $50 million. Placing the franchise tag on him could cost around $13 million.
That’s a hefty price, but it would certainly be worth it for a player that’s proved to be one of the top defensive players in the league.
At this point, I don’t think there’s any doubt the Titans will extend Byard. It’s not really a “if”, it’s a “when” and “how much”.
Byard deserves every penny he gets. The Titans would be wise to get it done sooner rather than later. Just because Byard doesn’t plan to hold out doesn’t mean the team should take their time making sure he’s in Nashville for a long time.
Featured image via Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports