The San Diego Chargers announced a deal with Hayward after Rand Getlin of NFL Network first reported Sunday that Hayward had agreed to terms, depriving the Packers of one of their premium assets in the defensive backfield.
Getlin reported the deal is for three years and $15.3 million.
Green Bay had somewhat of a surplus at the cornerback spot and could afford to let a gifted 26-year-old like Hayward go. The Packers drafted Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins in the first two rounds of the 2015 NFL draft.
Randall converted from safety to corner and was phenomenal as a rookie, while Rollins flashed nicely despite still being so raw, having just made the transition to the gridiron from basketball the year before as a senior at Miami (Ohio).
Although that made Hayward expendable, Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers didn't dismiss the value and skill set the 2012 second-round pick brought to the secondary in comments from December 2015, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Rob Reischel:
Casey's such a multipurpose guy for us. He's smart, he's instinctive. We've kind of had him all over the place. Had him outside, had him inside. It takes a lot of time to get ready to play inside in the slot. You've got to have a feel for splits, you're closer to the ball, so you normally have your hands on more balls. You've got to have good instincts to play in there and you've got to be able to blitz.
There is little Hayward can't do as a defender. He was an integral part in helping the Packers rank sixth in pass defense last season. It will be interesting to see how Green Bay's faith in its young tandem of Randall and Rollins is rewarded in the near future.
San Diego is getting great value for Hayward, who could fill in seamlessly as a starter on the outside or serve as a magnificent sub-package option as a slot corner.
The Chargers already boast Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett as their starters, so it'll be interesting to see where Hayward fits in. The Bolts were 14th in opponent passing yards, but opposing quarterbacks averaged 7.9 yards per attempt and had a 93.8 rating against them. Football Outsiders ranked the San Diego secondary 22nd against the pass.
At the very least, having Hayward around helps give depth to a secondary that was at times lacking last season.
Capers' complex defense ought to prepare Hayward well for his maiden transition to a new NFL system. He had to have a high football IQ to master the schematics in Green Bay, so the Chargers shouldn't have to worry about him in that regard.
Hayward's best football may still be ahead of him. He had to play many different roles during his time with the Packers and may settle into a more definitive niche with the Chargers.
If he continues to improve and make plays from all areas of the field, Hayward could prove to be one of the better open-market bargains when we reflect upon the 2016 free-agency class.