Does Pewter Report think LB Adam Hayward will be back in Tampa Bay? Why could he leave? Which team might Hayward draw the most interest from in free agency? Find out the answers and the prediction of Hayward's future with the Bucs.
PewterReport.com continues this series of articles that predicts whether a Bucs veteran free agent will be back with the team in 2011.LINEBACKER ADAM HAYWARD
Hayward, who just turned 27 in June, will likely head into unrestricted free agency after playing his fourth season of pro football if the new collective bargaining agreement sets the threshold for unrestricted free agency at four years as was customary over the past two decades. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Hayward was a sixth-round pick in Tampa Bay’s 2007 NFL Draft. 2010 SEASON
Hayward played in all 16 games for Tampa Bay last year, starting three contests, including the final two of the season against Seattle and at New Orleans. Hayward totaled 20 tackles (16 solo) in mostly reserve duty in 2010, and had three tackles for loss, three passes defensed, his second NFL sack and a fumble recovery. In his first career start in Tampa Bay’s 21-0 win at San Francisco, Hayward started for the injured Quincy Black at strongside linebacker and had his greatest game with six tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery. Hayward also led the team in special teams tackles with 20 stops and another fumble recovery.CAREER UP TO THIS POINT
Hayward has largely been relegated to playing special teams, which is an area that he has excelled during his four-year pro career. Hayward has racked up 58 special teams tackles in his tenure with the Buccaneers and has seen his playing time on defense steadily increase every year.
In 2009, Hayward had 15 special teams tackles and also tallied 14 stops on defense. The Portland State product started his first NFL game at linebacker against the New York Jets where he tallied one tackle and one quarterback pressure.
After last year’s breakthrough season in which he got to start three games at strongside linebacker, Hayward has notched 45 tackles on defense in his career and is ready to challenge for a starting job. In his four years in Tampa Bay, Hayward has been cross-trained at all three linebacker positions and spent the preseason playing mostly middle linebacker behind Barrett Ruud.
WHY HE COULD RE-SIGN
The Bucs place a high value on special teams, and with a combined 35 tackles over the past two seasons covering kicks and punts, Hayward is one of Tampa Bay’s most valuable special teamers. The team also likes the value he brings as a versatile linebacker that is capable of filling in at any of the three spots on defense. Hayward’s versatility to play multiple positions on all four downs makes him a desirable commodity for the Buccaneers.
The athletic Hayward has a nice combination of size, speed, hitting ability and intelligence. He is at the point in his career where he could challenge for a starting role. And with Black scheduled for free agency, too, it’s difficult to see the team re-sign both linebackers from the 2007 draft class. One of the reasons is the fact that the team drafted Mason Foster, who can play middle and strongside linebacker. The Bucs are high on Dekoda Watson, last year’s seventh-round pick, who also plays on the strongside. It is likely that the Bucs will keep Hayward or Black – but not both.
Hayward was also the Buccaneers’ Man of the Year for his multiple charities, including his emphasis on breast cancer awareness. Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris like to find and promote players that give back to the community, and Hayward is one of the most public service-minded Bucs on the team. Losing him in free agency would also hurt the team from a special teams leadership standpoint, a performance standpoint and a community standpoint.
Because of Hayward’s lack of experience as a starting linebacker, he will not command as high of a price tag as Black or Ruud will in free agency, which should make him affordable to re-sign. Because of all of the things he brings, plus a relatively high ceiling and what seems to be a big upside, the Bucs should want to put an emphasis on re-signing Hayward.WHY HE COULD DEPART
At age 27, Hayward is still an up-and-coming linebacker and is eager for a chance to start. Should Black be re-signed by the Buccaneers, which could happen, the team would be well stocked at Sam linebacker and Hayward likely won’t get the opportunity to start in Tampa Bay.
Hayward is one of former special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia’s favorite players and there is a chance he could be lured to San Diego, where Bisaccia now resides. The Chargers use a 3-4 defense and Hayward has the size to play outside linebacker. In college he was used as a pass-rushing defensive end, so he does have the background of getting after the quarterback. Hayward would also become one of the best players on San Diego’s special teams, which desperately need an upgrade.
Plus, if Bisaccia and San Diego come calling in free agency, it may be difficult for the Westminster, Calif. native to turn down an offer to move back to the West Coast. PREDICTION
Pewter Report’s prediction is that Hayward will be re-signed by Tampa Bay.PREVIOUS PR PREDICTS
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