The Las Vegas Raiders made a notable signing on Tuesday when it was revealed that they have signed veteran cornerback Casey Hayward. The team didn’t have a lot of salary cap space left so they had to move some things around to afford him. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the player who will be let go to make room for Hayward is safety Jeff Heath.
The #Raiders are releasing safety Jeff Heath on Wednesday, per source. He was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 10 last season. Now, set to be a free agent.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 4, 2021
Heath came over to the Raiders last offseason after spending his whole career with the Dallas Cowboys. He started five games for the team in 2020 and led them with three interceptions. He even won AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 10 when he caught two interceptions in a win versus the Denver Broncos. At just 29-years-old, Heath should land with a new team as he’s still a solid defensive back.
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Mike Mayock Just Recently Praised Heath
It’s a bit of a surprise the Raiders would move on from Heath right now considering he was a solid presence for them last season. With the drafting of Trevon Moehrig in the second round of the recent NFL Draft, the team has their starting free safety of the future. Signing Hayward fills a much bigger need, which made Heath and the $3.15 million he was set to earn expendable.
Interestingly enough, general manager Mike Mayock just said a couple of weeks ago that he thought Heath played well last season. Even after the team drafted Moehrig, Mayock made it seem that Heath was still the planned starter.
“Jeff Heath, at this point, is our post safety,” Mayock said after Day 2 of the draft. “But Moehrig is a guy that we think can step in and compete at post safety.”
That obviously turned out to be untrue. The Raiders also signed Karl Joseph in the offseason and drafted another safety in Tyree Gillespie. With Johnathan Abram and Dallin Leavitt already on the roster, the safety position group was getting a bit crowded.
It’s also possible that the Raiders did think Heath would still be on the roster this season until it became clear they could land Hayward. Per Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Heath was a “popular player” at Raiders HQ and the move was “tough” to make.
Professional sports can be cruel sometimes. Jeff Heath was a really popular player in Henderson in his one season with @Raiders. “It’s tough,” a Raiders source said about Heath’s release.
— Vincent Bonsignore (@VinnyBonsignore) May 5, 2021
Heath is a solid player but he’s not a big difference maker like the team is hoping Moehrig will be.
Hayward’s Contract Revealed
If this was just a few years ago, the Raiders would’ve had to unload a dump truck full of cash at Hayward’s feet if they were hoping to sign him. He’s coming off of one of his worst seasons so he’s not getting the biggest payday. According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, the veteran cornerback is getting a one-year deal worth up to $4 million.
CB Casey Hayward is signing a 1-year deal worth up to $4M, per source. https://t.co/JrAH2M5RzY
— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) May 4, 2021
That’s a solid deal for the Raiders. At worst, Hayward will be a strong veteran presence who helps teach Gus Bradley’s defense. At best, he can win a starting job and be a big upgrade at cornerback.
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