The deal is for $70.5 million over five years and includes $31 million in guarantees, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. That makes Byard, who has the same agent as fellow star safeties Landon Collins and Earl Thomas, the highest-paid safety in NFL history.
Byard, who did not receive an invite to the NFL scouting combine, is entering his fourth season after being drafted in the third round (64th overall) by the Titans in 2016. He has since played in all 48 games for Tennessee, including starts in all 32 games over the past two seasons. He has played 99.7% of defensive snaps since 2017.
Known as one of the best all-around safeties in the league, Byard has 124 solo tackles and 12 interceptions over the past two years, including a career-high eight interceptions in 2017. He played in the Pro Bowl and was named to the All-Pro first team that season.
No safety has more interceptions than Byard over the past three seasons.
“He’s always been a ballhawk, somebody who can find and catch the ball,” Byard’s agent, David Mulugheta, told ESPN. “In a passing league, those types of guys are invaluable.
“The emphasis is on throwing the ball and getting those yards in the air. He’s a weapon back there to keep teams from going deep. He can play the deep post. He can come up and tackle; he’s a sure tackler, probably one of the best tackling safeties in the game.”
Byard still took part in offseason minicamp despite having an expiring contract, but he expressed confidence throughout that a deal would get done.
“I have an agent to do this kind of stuff. I am focused on taking that leadership role to another level and helping the younger guys,” Byard said after practice in May. “I am not concerned about anything other than my brothers, my teammates and winning a Super Bowl.”
Before the deal, Collins and the Kansas City Chiefs‘ Tyrann Mathieu were the highest-paid safeties, signing contracts in March for an average of $14 million a year. Collins, 25, signed a six-year, $84 million deal with $44.5 million guaranteed with the Washington Redskins. Mathieu, 27, signed a three-year, $42 million deal with $26.8 million guaranteed. Thomas’ contract with the Baltimore Ravens was the next highest, with an average annual value of $13.75 million and also signed in March.
The Titans wanted Byard to take on more of a leadership role in his fourth season. Now they’re paying him to do that and more. Byard feels his work ethic along with his production on the field has earned him the right to be more of a vocal leader.
“A lot of young guys want to just come in and immediately change the culture,” he said. “That’s not always the way. The way you change the culture is you come in and keep your head down and work. The older guys see that and start to trust you. That’s when you can start speaking up.”
“You want the guys to know that this guy is a grinder and has the right to speak. That’s how I always developed leadership.”