Patriots Listed As ‘Potential’ Trade Fit For Notable All-Pro Safety

Kevin Byard certainly would qualify as a splash trade


March 22

The retirement of longtime Patriots safety Devin McCourty left New England with a noticeable void in their defensive backfield.

And while the Patriots might try to fill that hole with internal options — it was reported Wednesday Jalen Mills will return to the Patriots and could switch from cornerback to safety — perhaps Bill Belichick might be interested in swinging a trade after striking out at the position on the open market. Speculated McCourty replacements like Jessie Bates (Atlanta Falcons), C.J. Gardner-Johnson (Detroit Lions) and Jordan Poyer (Buffalo Bills) all signed or re-signed elsewhere since the start of free agency.

In breaking down the best landing spots for some of the NFL’s top trade candidates, Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson included the Patriots as a “potential fit” for Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard. Byard, a third-rounder in 2016 who has twice been named a First Team All-Pro, would be a massive move for the Patriots defense.

“Byard may be a casualty of a rebuild that the Tennessee Titans seem very close to pulling the trigger on,” Monson wrote in a story published Wednesday. “He has been one of the best safeties in the league since he came into the NFL and is particularly adept in coverage. With a significant contract, he may not have a red-hot market, but if a deal can be done to minimize his cap hit to a new team, Byard could transform a secondary in an instant. He is still on the right side of 30 years old, though this will be the last offseason where that is true.”

The 29-year-old Byard has two years remaining on a five-year, $70.5 million contract. He carries a base salary of $13.6 million each of the next two seasons with cap hits of $19.6 in 2023 and $17.8 in 2024. Byard’s cap hit in 2023 is the highest of any safety in the league while his number in 2024 is ninth.

Monson listed the Philadelphia Eagles as the “best fit” for Byard while naming the Patriots as the “best fit” for Denver Broncos wideout Jerry Jeudy.

As it relates to the Patriots’ reported agreement with Mills, he was one of New England’s outside cornerbacks in 2022 and 2021. But he previously was used as more of a versatile defensive back with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020, and his primary college position was safety.

Thumbnail photo via Andrew Nelles/USA TODAY Sports Images
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