The Falcons released cornerback Casey Hayward, who opened last season as a starter on the right side, according to an announcement from the team Friday.
Hayward started six games, but had his season cut short after he sustained a torn pectoral muscle that required surgery. The two-time former Pro Bowler was hoping to play another season in the NFL. He’s set to turn 34 in September.
He signed a two-year, $11 million contract with the Falcons. The team will save $5 million against the salary cap with his release.
Hayward, who’s from Perry, played in college at Vanderbilt and has had a strong NFL career. He was drafted in the second round (62nd overall) by the Packers in 2012 and played for the Packers from 2012-15. He played for the Chargers from 2016-20. He played with the Raiders in 2021 before signing with the Falcons. He was a Pro Bowl player in 2016 and 2017.
Hayward was recovering from pectoral surgery and was looking forward to the offseason.
“I’m doing good,” Hayward said recently. “I’m getting a lot better. Hopefully, by OTAs and camp, I’ll be 100%. I’m getting there. Everything is going in the right direction.”
Hayward felt he was off to a strong start until the injury derailed him last season.
“At the time, I thought I was playing some solid ball,” Hayward said recently at A.J. Terrell’s track invitational for high school athletes. “I was playing some good ball at the time. Obviously, it’s a new year. So far the team is doing a good job in free agency signing some key pieces. Hopefully, as a team and as a defense we can be a lot better than what we were.
“We’ve got a new (defensive coordinator) and a lot of new things going on. Hopefully, those things turn out and go in the right direction for us.”
Hayward was looking forward to play with new safety Jessie Bates, who the Falcons signed in free agency.
“Yeah, Jessie, that’s my guy,” Hayward said. “Before he signed, we probably (saw) him a month before that. We were definitely trying to recruit him. It worked. So, we’re happy to have him here. He’s one of the top safeties in this league, to have him on your team, it’s going to make your team and your defense a lot better.”
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