Falcons New CB Dubbed ‘Most Underrated Player’ Ahead of 2022 Season

Falcons

Getty Falcons' free agent signing Casey Hayward has been labeled "most underrated" by Pro Football Focus.

The Atlanta Falcons made a handful of signings this past free agency that should have fans excited for the upcoming season––one of those being the addition of veteran cornerback Casey Hayward.

In fact, the former Raiders defensive back has been dubbed as Atlanta’s “most underrated player” by Pro Football Focus heading into Week 1.

PFF’s NFL analyst Sam Monson named all 32 team’s most underrated player ahead of the 2022 season and made Hayward his pick for the Falcons:

“Hayward has been underrated since Day 1 in the NFL, and it’s continued into the twilight years of his career. Fresh off a bounce-back season with the Las Vegas Raiders, Hayward still had to take a modest two-year, $11 million deal with the Falcons to continue playing. He was one of the best cornerbacks of the past decade and showed last season that he can still start and perform well. He should provide an able foil to A.J. Terrell, who took his performance to an All-Pro level in Year 2 in Atlanta.”

A two-time Pro Bowler, Hayward comes to Atlanta after a successful season that slotted him as Pro Football Focus‘ 12th highest-rated cornerback.

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Hayward Joins A Young Secondary

Hayward, 32, spent last season with the Las Vegas Raiders after signing a one-year, $2.5 million guaranteed free-agent deal, reuniting him with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, whom he played under in LA for four seasons with the Chargers.

Following an injury-plagued 2020 season, Hayward bounced in 2021 and started all 17 games, and finished with an interception and nine passes defended, which was his most in a single season since 2017 when he logged a career-best 22 PD. His 46 tackles last season were also the most he had since 2018.

Hayward, a Georgia native, was initially drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers in 2012. He spent four seasons with the cheese heads before heading to LA where he earned both his Pro Bowls in 2016 and 2017.

The soon-to-be 33-year-old joins a relatively young secondary room with the Falcons that features 25-year-old Isaiah Oliver, 2020 draft pick A.J. Terrell and second-year corners Darren Hall and Avery Williams

Hayward is no stranger to being a mentor as he did the same in Vegas last season for rookie slot cornerback Nate Hobbs.

In 10 NFL seasons, Hayward has 24 interceptions, 109 passes defended and 431 tackles.


Hayward Takes Optimistic Approach for 2022 Season

The Falcons struck a goldmine by signing Hayward at a discount price after his Pro Bowl level 2021 season.

Not only is his pay lower than his skillset, but Hayward also joins a Falcons team that could very well find themselves with a top 5 draft pick in 2023.

However, the Falcons being in the midst of a rebuild doesn’t bother him one bit.

“We’re grown men, we’re going out there to try to win each and every game no matter how people view the roster or not,” Hayward said, via AtlantaFalcons.com. “For me, I just go out there and compete no matter if people think we can win or can’t win. Our goal is to go out there and try to win every game. Not saying that we will, but that’s the goal so who cares what the outside thinks about the roster and things like that. Maybe we don’t win games and maybe we do, but our goal is to win them.”

Hayward’s mindset is the kind that all Atlanta players need to have as they enter a season stacked with tough matchups.

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