The decision to re-sign Kevin Byard is an easy one for the Tennessee Titans, but what will it cost?
The Tennessee Titans have a few things on their to do list this offseason, but three things stand out ahead of the rest.
There is no jewel in Jon Robinson’s crown as large as Kevin Byard. He is the star of Robinson’s first draft class and if he is the best safety in the NFL. That last statement really isn’t even an opinion it is just a fact.
John Glennon (The Athletic) has been covering the Tennessee Titans for well over a decade, so he is always a great read. Most recently, he posted an article on what the Titans could and should do with Kevin Byard here.
You should read the article, but look at the stats he uses to show why Byard has to be considered among the best safeties in the league:
"“-The 25-year-old Byard led all NFL players with 12 interceptions over the past two seasons, thanks in part to an eight-interception 2017 that landed him All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.-Byard has also piled up 183 tackles and 28 passes defensed over the past two seasons, both of which rank second on the team.-Byard allowed a quarterback rating of just 55.8 to receiving targets in his area last season, third-best in the game among safeties, per Pro Football Focus.”"
I would argue that even if you (incorrectly) argue that there is a better safety in the NFL, there isn’t one that is more balanced. Byard can cover anyone on the field in a pinch as evidenced by his coverage grade and the fact that he has outclassed everyone else in the NFL when it comes to taking the ball away.
Not only that but he racks up tackles and oh by the way he had 2 sacks, 3 TFLs and 5 QB hits last year and he wasn’t even the defensive back that the Titans liked blitzing the most (which would be Logan Ryan).
Everything tells you that the Titans are going to sign Byard to a deal, the only question is what will the deal end up being?
I’m going to use the Landon Collins deal as a blueprint. Players are getting more expensive, so you need to brace yourself for what it costs to acquire and keep talent.
The argument against that is that when players sign their deals early, it is because the team feels very comfortable with the price tag and the player likes the guaranteed safety of the instant pay day.
Landon Collins made $84 million over 6 years with $44.5 million in guarantees, but that doesn’t tell the full story. That money is all going to be taxed at 5.75% thanks to state income tax in Washington D.C.
As most of you know, Tennessee doesn’t have state income tax which huge in this situation. So this is a deal that would actually give the player the same amount of money (give or take a few thousand):
$79 million over 6 years, $42 million in guarantees.
$13.1 million per year with $7 million per year in guarantees.
It looks like a lot on paper, but is it? Byard is the leader of this defense and as much as everyone loves Casey, it was Byard taking the interception to the star in Dallas and getting the team back into it after a terrible start.
It was Byard to attempt to stop the bleeding vs the Houston Texans in 2017 when he got his first career interception.
Byard nearly single-handedly won the Cleveland Browns game in 2017 with three interceptions.
Seemingly every time the Titans need a momentum swing you can see 31 making a play or right next to the action. He is the heartbeat of the defense much like Taylor Lewan is the heartbeat of the offense.
Everyone wants to talk about “we want dogs” and “this team can’t settle for mediocre players who don’t rock the boat” well, when the Titans give Byard this deal those same people better not take to Twitter and talk about how expensive this is.
If Byard agrees to this deal the Titans need to jump on it. From his standpoint, it makes him as much money as the blockbuster Landon Collins deal made the former Alabama safety.
On top of that, it allows Byard to either renegotiate at 30 or to get another contract at 31 which is just a year older than Earl Thomas who just got a 4 year, $55 million deal of his own.
For the Titans, you get one of the rarest commodities in the NFL. A truly selfless leader on the field and off the field combined with a hometown hero. Granted, Byard is from Philadelphia by way of Georgia, but he spent his college career at MTSU and has been dubbed the “Mayor of Murfreesboro” by the voice of the Tennessee Titans himself Mike Keith.
The guy is a must have and even if you give him all that money he is still making less per year than Earl Thomas, Tyrann Mathieu and Landon Collins. Only Landon Collins is as young as Byard and you would be getting a discount on him which would be very helpful for cap space.
Anything less than that is a big win for the Titans front office and I am sure that Byard will make plenty of it back in local advertising and sponsorships with the full force of the Titans PR department behind him.
Anything more than that is a win for Byard and will hurt the team a little bit down the road, but with great players you can’t cut corners.
The deal needs to get done and it needs to get done quickly so that all eyes can be on the 2019 season with no distractions and with morale high.