Julian Love joining the Seattle Seahawks in 2023 NFL free agency created a void at safety the New York Giants still need to fill. The recent acquisition of Bobby McCain can help, as can the return to full health for Xavier McKinney, but a trade for a two-time All-Pro would give the Giants elite talent at the position.
Kevin Byard is an “under-the-radar” candidate for trade, according to The 33rd Team’s Ari Meirov, and the Giants have been listed as a potential landing spot for the Tennessee Titans’ star by Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus. Although Monson deemed the Giants’ NFC East rivals the Philadelphia Eagles Byard’s best fit, the G-Men arguably have a greater need for a defensive back who can “transform a secondary in an instant.”
The Giants could use a transformative player on the back end. Their secondary is often under strain thanks to the blitz-heavy system called by defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale.
A savvy safety with Byard’s range would quickly become the natural quarterback of those tasked with patrolling the last line of defense. The Giants aren’t short of options for this key role, but none are as capable as Byard.
Giants Should Pounce for Elite Defensive Back
Byard’s future in Tennessee is under a cloud amid the Titans wanting him to accept a pay cut. The 29-year-old “does not believe his play warrants a decrease in salary,” leaving both player and franchise “at a crossroads,” according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter:
Any trade would have to take into account Byard’s hefty cap hit for 2023. He’s projected by Spotrac.com to count for $19,623,000 against the cap, a tally that includes $13.6 million in base salary.
Naturally, any team striking a deal would be keen to restructure Byard’s contract, but his high price tag reflects the elite level of his play in recent seasons. He’s intercepted nine passes and broken up 19 more the last two years, per Pro Football Reference, with the same source also noting how Byard allowed 46 completions from 71 targets in 2022.
Byard’s talents in coverage and as a box defender, along with his experience playing both free and strong safety, recommend him as an ideal replacement for Love. The latter played all over for Martindale last season, allowing a completion percentage of 68 in coverage, while blitzing 16 times.
Love proved invaluable when McKinney missed eight games through injury. Now the Giants are trying to retool their options.
New Arrival Gives Giants a Different Look at Safety
Signing former Washington Commanders starter McCain on a one-year deal gives the Giants extra versatility in the secondary. McCain has experience at cornerback and in the slot, but the eight-year veteran revealed “he was brought in to play safety” for the Giants, per Dan Duggan of The Athletic:
A player with McCain’s skills and experience will be an asset wherever he plays, but the Giants would be even more multiple with Byard added to the mix. Martindale would be able to employ various three-safety sets and interchange defensive backs at different positions to show quarterbacks confusing coverage looks.
That’s likely to be the plan anyway, and there’s still a chance third-year pro Jason Pinnock or 2022 fourth-round pick Dane Belton can muscle their way into the starting lineup. If not, then Giants’ general manager Joe Schoen might wish he’d found a way to somehow fit a contract for Byard into the books.