Eagles Cutting Kevin Byard Highlights Desire for Playmaking Safety

Eagles Cutting Kevin Byard Highlights Desire for Playmaking Safety

Situation and circumstance doomed Kevin Byard’s stint with the Philadelphia Eagles last season.

Eagles reportedly release Kevin Byard to clear cap space - Bleeding Green  Nation

The release of safety Kevin Byard by the Philadelphia Eagles was necessary and predictable.

The two-time All-Pro with the Tennessee Titans didn’t stand out in his short stint with the Eagles after being acquired before the trade deadline on Oct. 23 of last year for two 2024 Day 3 picks – a fifth- and sixth-rounder – as well as safety Terrell Edmunds.

In 10 games with his hometown Eagles, it wasn’t all bad for Byard. In fact, the eight-year veteran was a steadying influence in a back seven that essentially collapsed due to injury, ineffectiveness, and the disjointed nature of a coaching staff that went from Sean Desai as the play-caller to Matt Patricia down the stretch.

Desai, now a senior defensive assistant for Sean McVay in Los Angeles, was knocked out of the door for a lack of presence with what had been an experienced, veteran group as well as throwing too much onto the plates of certain players who were forced into the fire, sometimes out of position.

Kevin Byard vs. Kansas City

You could see the upside and athleticism of third-round rookie Sydney Brown before a torn ACL in Week 18 or the natural coverage skills of undrafted freshman Eli Ricks. The building is brimming with excitement over the long-term potential of Kelee Ringo at outside cornerback after he was forced into action but through it all, the sum was somehow lesser than the parts.

The best examples of that sentiment were veterans James Bradberry and Byard.

The former was moved around like a Yo-Yo to patch up holes week in and week out and the descent was swift as Bradberry morphed from second-team All-Pro in 2022 to a player many think has nothing left after the way he played last season.

Byard, meanwhile, was too busy putting out fires and playing literal safety net for everything going on around him. He had been one of the league’s top playmakers with the Titans but that never crossed over to the Eagles absent the Week 11 win at the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Cheifs when he picked off Patrick Mahomes in the end zone and bolstered his reputation as a Travis Kelce-killer,

Entering 2024, Byard would have counted over $14 million against the Eagles’ salary cap and by moving on Philadelphia will get over $13M of that back.

In theory, Byard could even return on a more team-friendly contract down the road especially if new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio likes the player but the scuttlebutt coming from Indianapolis focused on a potential reunion with C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who was a playmaking machine in 2022 with the Eagles playing both safety and slot cornerback.

Things didn’t end well for Gardner-Johnson in Philadelphia but most of that angst dealt with the contract offer that proved to be more than fair after CJGJ was forced to take a one-year deal in Detroit, where he suffered through an injury-plagued season.

Former Eagles’ secondary coach Dennard Wilson was given a lot of credit for pulling the best out of Gardner-Johnson and he’s now the defensive coordinator in Tennessee, which also projects to be a potential suitor for the veteran.

Fangio brought in Christian Parker to handle the defensive backs so the landscape is completely clean from that perspective. However, the Eagles will essentially be playing the same scheme that Gardner-Johnson flourished in.

That and the right amount of money could steer Gardner-Johnson back to a city in which he sometimes clashed with while here.

One thing is certain, though.

The Eagles want a playmaking presence like Gardner-Johnson on the back end and the current in-house options of Reed Blankenship, a rehabbing Brown, and futures contract hopeful Tristin McCollum are expected to be the complements to that end game.

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