When it comes to NFL free agency, sometimes trying to figure out who might end up where can be a case not only of figuring cap space, but connecting the dots in terms of relationships. Such a relationship is what might make cornerback Casey Hayward a fit for the New York Giants.
The 26-year-old Hayward, of course, spent the last four seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Giants' head coach Ben McAdoo was a Green Bay assistant until joining the Giants as offensive coordinator in 2014. So, while they were on opposite sides of the ball they know something about each other.
Walter Football rates Hayward the fifth-best cornerback scheduled to become a free agent, calling him a "terrific cover corner" who struggles when it comes to tackling.
Pro Football Focus rates him even higher, putting him as the No. 3 corner available.
Hayward's best season came as a rookie in 2012, as he earned the third-highest coverage grade for cornerbacks that season and won our Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He was injured most of the following years, and he hasn't quite reached that same level of play since, but has still played well over the last couple years He has earned above-average coverage grades in each of his four seasons, ranking 14th and 21st at the position the last two seasons. He has proven capable of playing on the outside now, but he is still at his best when playing in the slot.
PFF also opines that re-signing Hayward should be Green Bay's top priority.
Hayward, 5-foot-11, 188 pounds, might not have the size and physicality the Giants would like as a replacement on the outside for Prince Amukamara, should Amukamara leave via free agency. The Giants also, however, have a glaring need in the slot. Trevin Wade and Trumaine McBride played most of the snaps in the slot last season, and the Giants are badly in need of an upgrade there.
Evan "Tex Western" of SB Nation's Acme Packing Company told me he believes Hayward is really a slot corner, and a good one.
"If you're looking for a slot corner with good ball skills and short-area quickness, Casey Hayward is your guy. If you need a player who can play on the outside and has the size and long speed to keep up with the league's bigger and faster receivers, look elsewhere. Hayward has proven over the past few years that he is quite productive on the slot, but those skills have not translated to the perimeter. Given the early successes of 2015 draft picks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins and Sam Shields' long-term extension in 2014, Hayward is unlikely to re-sign with Green Bay before free agency opens, and we expect that somebody will pay him pretty well as their third corner -- certainly more than Ted Thompson will be willing to spend."
SB Nation also ranks Hayward among the best cornerbacks expected to be available.
Hayward has versatility in the secondary, capable of playing both outside and in the slot, so that will undoubtedly help his chances of securing a big contract. He should have little trouble earning a starting job with teams desperate to find starting-quality cornerbacks.
The 2012 second-round pick said recently he will "probably hit the market."
If the Giants are one of the teams who at least try to find out what Hayward's price tag is, that probably won't be a surprise. Your thoughts, Giants fans?