Kevin Byard is the playmaking safety the NY Jets defense needs

NY Jets, Kevin Byard
NY Jets, Kevin Byard / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The NY Jets are already preparing for one offseason splash (quite the understatement) in the form of an Aaron Rodgers trade. Perhaps a major defensive splash in the form of Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard could be in order as well.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Friday that the Titans approached Byard about the possibility of a pay cut. Byard refused, and the two sides are reportedly at a crossroads.

There is a distinct possibility that multi-time All-Pro safety could be on the move, either via a trade or a release, and if that's the case, the Jets should do everything they can to bring him to Florham Park.

The Jets are preparing to go all-in on the 2023 season. General manager Joe Douglas knows that his job is on the line — this is his final opportunity to prove that he deserves to remain with the organization past this upcoming season.

That makes a pursuit of Byard all the more likely.

Kevin Byard is exactly what this NY Jets defense needs

The Jets had one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2022. From their star-studded cornerback duo to their rock-solid defensive line anchored by Quinnen Williams, the Jets' defense stayed healthy and carried the team through most of last season.

But one major weakness remains the team's safeties. The Jets traded for former Baltimore Ravens safety Chuck Clark earlier this month, and Clark is an excellent addition, especially for the price tag.

He gives the Jets an excellent tackler who can play as more of a rover safety/linebacker hybrid, similar to the role Jordan Whitehead plays, although Clark is a better tackler.

Contrary to what some have suggested, however, Clark isn't a replacement for Lamarcus Joyner. He's either a Whitehead replacement or someone who will share snaps with Whitehead.

This Jets' defense desperately needs a rangy playmaking safety who can be trusted in a deep zone and someone who can force turnovers. Kevin Byard is that guy.

Byard has been ranked inside the top-10 safeties by Pro Football Focus in four of the last five seasons, including the 2021 season, where his 90.4 grade was the highest in the NFL.

Only one player in the entire NFL, Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, has recorded more interceptions since Byard entered the league in 2016. His 27 career interceptions include five seasons with at least four picks.

Byard is one of the best coverage safeties in the NFL, with the ball-hawking ability to create turnovers every game. His skill set would perfectly complement Whitehead and/or Clark while adding an extra element to this Jets' defense.

A secondary consisting of Byard, Sauce Gardner, and D.J. Reed would be a strong contender for the top unit in the league. It would immediately turn one of the team's biggest weaknesses into one of its strengths.

The cherry on top is that Byard has quite literally never missed a game in his seven-year career. He's played 114 consecutive games since entering the league. That level of durability is unheard of in today's NFL.

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Forget Odell Beckham. Ignore DeAndre Hopkins. Kevin Byard is the high-profile star the Jets should target this offseason.