When the Green Bay Packers decided not to get in a bidding war for cornerback Tramon Williams, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
The Packers rarely get into those kinds of contract battles in free agency. That’s one reason why Williams’ departure wasn’t unexpected — the other is the obvious faith Green Bay has in fourth year corner Casey Hayward to fill the void.
Hayward, who was selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft, has been on the cusp of greatness since his rookie season when he notched a team-high six interceptions. But injuries and a loaded depth chart have held him back. Yet, that will no longer be the case as he is the overwhelming favorite to take over Williams’ former starting spot.
The question is, how will Hayward, who has played the slot for most of his NFL career do on the outside against both bigger, stronger receivers?
Hayward insists that he can do it and the Packers, particularly cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt believes he can too. Height wise he is essentially the same size as Williams, although his time in the forty yard dash is slightly slower than Tramon’s, but he is still big enough and quick enough that he should be able to hold his own outside.
In 2013, Hayward missed almost the entire season due to injury but returned last year and put together a solid campaign that included 42 tackles, three interceptions and seven pass deflections. Thus, in two full seasons, the former Vanderbilt standout has nine interceptions.
Hayward definitely has a nose for the ball and making plays on the ball is one of his strong suits. However, it will be an adjustment playing outside after nearly 80 percent of his snaps came in the slot.
Certainly, the Packers wanted Williams back, but at the right price. And one reason they took that negotiating tactic was their comfort level with Hayward stepping in and starting.
Green Bay still needs to address the depth behind Hayward, Sam Shields and Micah Hyde — but as far as the replacement for Williams — Hayward will need to be up for the job. The Packers season and his career (contract expires after 2015 season) depend on it.