Keep An Eye On Kelvin HaydenFebruary 27th, 2014
Joe realizes many Bucs fans are in denial. They can’t imagine that half their current beloved Buccaneers won’t be around these parts when opening day arrives.
These fans are certain Lovie Smith just needs to coach up underperforming Bucs and life will be good.
But the reality is the Bucs are primed for a Chiefs-like housecleaning. Kansas City blew out more than 30 players last offseason while re-tooling its roster, one that had a strong base of talent, much like the Bucs have now.
Lovie Smith is a veteran head coach with a veteran defensive coordinator. And every veteran head coach wants his guys, men he trusts, men who know his system, and men who can lead young players.
Joe’s invested plenty of time studying who Lovie might be targeting in free agency, and one name to watch is cornerback Kelvin Hayden.
Hayden was a Father Dungy second-round draft pick of Indianapolis back in 2005. Some guy named Leslie Frazier was his position coach. Hayden impressed Father Dungy enough to earn a five-year, $43 million contract before the 2009 season. Two years later, Atlanta signed him as a free agent, one of the many one-year, post-lockout deals. Hayden showed enough in Atlanta to catch the Bears’ eye, and he played every game for Lovie’s Chicago defense in 2012.
Hayden transitioned under Lovie to nickel cornerback and was retained after Lovie was ousted following the Bears’ 10-6 finish.
Last year, Hayden tore his hamstring in the preseason, needed surgery and was lost for the year.
A pending free agent, Hayden will turn 31 this summer and he’s going to be inexpensive coming off an injury. Joe sees Hayden as a prime target for the Bucs. Hayden likely represents an upgrade to the Bucs’ cornerback depth chart. He’s versatile, has loads of playoff experience, and his history with the Bucs’ staff is too great to ignore.
Assuming Hayden is healthy, he’s the perfect candidate to compete in training camp. Please don’t tell Joe that Leonard Johnson is on the cusp of greatness and magically will thrive under the new regime. That’s like dreaming that the Bucs have quality edge pass rushers on the roster now.