Kevin Byard and the Tennessee Titans appear at a crossroads this offseason after the club approached the two-time All-Pro safety about a pay cut.
NFL Network's Cameron Wolfe reported earlier this month that Byard rejected the pay cut and hoped to remain with the Titans, but the ball appeared in the team's court.
The man handling the ball is new general manager Ran Carthon. Speaking to Jim Wyatt of the team's official website from the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, Carthon rejected a local report that Byard wanted his release.
"I will say this -- K.B., nor his representatives, ever asked us for a release. So, that was blatantly false," he said Sunday. "That's what I'll say about that."
Carthon rejecting the release reporting but not the part about the team approaching the safety about taking a pay cut underscores that the situation is up in the air.
Tennessee's GM added he has a "ton of respect for K.B., and we'd love for him to continue his career as a Titan."
The question is whether the Titans and the star safety, who has had at least four interceptions in five of the past six seasons, can find common ground moving forward.
Byard has two years remaining on his contract and is set to count for $19.623 million against the salary cap in 2023. The final two years of the deal include base salaries of $13.6 million in each campaign but have zero guaranteed money left. The Titans would save $5.991 million by cutting Byard with $13.632 million in dead money. A post-June 1 cut would basically flip that math, saving the Titans $14.1 million in 2023 with $5.523 million in dead money.
It's not unusual for teams to approach veterans with high cap numbers about potentially taking a pay cut, particularly those deals that don't include any more guaranteed dollars. Sometimes a player might exchange salary for guarantees added to the deal -- generally depending on what his prospects on the open market might look like if he's cut. Byard rejected the approach, which is his absolute right.
Since taking over, Carthon has made some heady moves, swapping out an aging offensive line to bring in younger players with more upside at this stage. He's swiped several defenders in free agency for good prices (Azeez Al-Shaair, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Arden Key).
The futures of Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and now Byard remain in question as we move out of free agency and toward the draft. Carthon could ride the veterans for another season or take a big left turn at some point in the next month.