Kevin Byard, Eagles


Kevin Byard, Eagles


Getty

Safety Kevin Byard of the Chicago Bears.

The Chicago Bears number among the most aggressive teams this offseason and boast one of the more transformed rosters as a result, though not every move will necessarily work out according to plan.

If Chicago’s defense, which took massive strides down the stretch in 2023, can play at a high level, the Bears should be a very fun team to watch this season. They might even find themselves in the playoffs. However, Chicago is still probably a year or two away from legitimate title contention.

Therefore, signing safety Kevin Byard to a two-year, $15 million deal just didn’t make a lot of sense. Byard, who will turn 31 in August, isn’t the same player he once was and would be far better suited as a depth player on a roster ready to contend right away.

Targeting a younger safety like Xavier McKinney or Kamren Curl would have been logical for the rebuilding Bears. Instead, they released pricey veteran Eddie Jackson and replaced him with another aging safety on a deal that is far from a bargain.


Kevin Byard’s Play Dropped Off During 2023 With Titans, Eagles

Kevin Byard, Eagles

GettyChicago Bears safety Kevin Byard. 

The argument that the Bears should have spent more money on yet another position to get a younger player is a relatively easy and obvious one to make, and often times unfair. However, based on Chicago’s salary cap situation, Knox’s case for the Bears pursuing a different safety than Byard holds more water than similar arguments against other teams might.

Chicago has more than $22.6 million in salary cap space as of Sunday. And McKinney, for instance, signed a four-year deal worth $67 million to join the Green Bay Packers.

While it may seem counterintuitive to pay a player like McKinney more before the Bears are truly ready to contend for a Super Bowl, which is a crux of Knox’s argument, doing so would have created continuity and talent across the secondary entering the 2025 and 2026 campaigns.

As it stands, though, Byard will be a starting safety for the Bears in 2024 after a career with the Tennessee Titans that included two All-Pro selections in 2017 and 2021. Tennessee dealt Byard to the Philadelphia Eagles ahead of last year’s trade deadline, where he played the final 10 regular-season games.

To Knox’s point about Byard’s decline in 2023, the safety allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 74.6% of 63 total throws his way for a collective passer rating of 102.1, per Pro Football Reference.


Kevin Byard Already Adding Leadership to Bears’ Locker Room

Kevin Byard Signing Bears NFL Free Agency Rumors

GettyChicago Bears safety Kevin Byard.

There is no certainty that Byard won’t bounce back in 2024 with a Bears defense that played like one of the better units in the NFL down the stretch last season. However, even if he doesn’t return to All-Pro form, a young locker room in Chicago is already benefiting from the safety’s leadership.

The safety sent a message to Caleb Williams, the No. 1 overall pick, after the defense gave the new quarterback a tough time during 11-on-11 drills in practice on May 23.

“We had a good day. I’m not going to sit here and lie about that. But to be honest, it’s to be expected. You have a returning top-15, top-10 defense, obviously going against a younger rookie quarterback who’s getting acclimated and learning things,” Byard said, per Courtney Cronin of ESPN. “I said something to him at the end of practice like, ‘Keep it going. We’re going to keep making you better.’ And not necessarily saying he had a terrible day, but days like this are going to make you better.”

Byard’s experience, leadership and performance should all make Chicago’s defense better over the course of next season. At the year’s conclusion, the Bears can re-examine where they’re at as a team and at the safety position, then potentially make an addition and/or a change in 2025.



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