Kevin Byard Contract: Bears could still target safety in 2024 NFL Draft

Chicago Bears, Kevin Byard
Chicago Bears, Kevin Byard / Denny Simmons / / USA

Just days before the official start of the NFL free agency period, the Chicago Bears seem to have locked down their starting free safety by signing veteran Kevin Byard to a two-year contract. Nearly a month ago, the team announced the release of Eddie Jackson, leaving a hole in the team's secondary. Byard seems poised to step right into the starting spot, rounding out one of the team's premier units.

Spending most of his career with the Tennessee Titans, Byard has been named First-Team All-Pro twice, including after the 2017 season, where he led the league with 8 interceptions. Byard was a dominant player in Tennesee and was a main reason for their defensive success throughout their playoff-caliber seasons, but at last year's trade deadline, the Titans traded the veteran safety to the Philadelphia Eagles for Terrell Edmunds (the brother of Chicago Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds) and two late-round picks.

Byard played well in Philadelphia, but with the team's struggles to end the regular season, the Eagles are prioritizing other potential free-agency targets. When the new league year starts on Wednesday afternoon, Byard should officially be a Chicago Bear, but he might not be the only safety that the team adds this offseason.

Chicago Bears Could Still Look for More Safety Help in NFL Draft

Ryan Poles and the Chicago Bears front office could still look elsewhere to bolster the position further. At this point in both players' careers, Byard's top-end production may be higher than Jackson's, but at roughly the same age, both players appear to be closer to the back end of their impressive runs in the NFL.

Poles has shown a great ability to find defensive backs in the NFL Draft, especially in the second round, but he could be looking to add another safety even later, perhaps on day three. The Bears could still use another developmental safety alongside Terell Smith, who seemed to drift more toward the cornerback position throughout his limited playing time as a rookie. Behind Jaquan Brisker, and now Byard, the Bears do not have a lot of quality safety depth, so adding another player may be in the cards.

Chicago Bears, Kevin Byard
Chicago Bears, Kevin Byard / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

With Byard on a shorter-term deal, adding a later-round player who could eventually become a starter would make sense. Ironically, both Byard and Jackson were selected in the third round or later, so the Bears' decision-makers should know that it is possible to find a future starter at this position later in the draft. Additionally, with three safety looks becoming more and more popular across the NFL, the Bears could add another safety to play alongside Brisker and Byard in certain looks, adding even more complexity to this talented and productive secondary.

Safety is a very physically demanding position, and Byard hasn't done his body too many favors over recent years (from 2016 - 2019, Byard averaged 80 tackles per year compared to over 107 per year from 2020 - 2023). Depth will be essential for team success, even without any injuries throughout the year, and the Bears seem to be transitioning into win-now mode. With Byard now commanding the center field of the Chicago Bears' defense, the unit could cement themselves as the best in the NFL come 2024.

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