Titans safety Kevin Byard letting agent handle team’s pay cut request

AP photo by George Walker IV / Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard listens to a question during a news conference Thursday after the conclusion of the team's minicamp in Nashville.

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard will talk about most any topic when asked.

Being asked to take a pay cut going into his eighth NFL season by the team that drafted him is very different.

Byard knows professional football is a business, and that's why he's leaving the Titans' request earlier this year to his agent and Ran Carthon, who took over as general manager of the Titans in late January. It's also why Byard hadn't talked about the team's request publicly until Thursday.

"I don't really want to get into my feelings or anything about that and any emotions ...," Byard said. "I guarantee you I would not be the last player, and I haven't been the first player, come to about a pay cut."

Carthon confirmed just before the NFL draft in late April that Byard had been asked to take a pay cut. Byard has never missed a game as a pro — the former Middle Tennessee State standout has started 105 of his 114 games with the Titans — and led the team in tackles and interceptions each of the past two seasons.

Byard worked out on his own throughout Tennessee's offseason program, a plan he said he made coaches aware of very early this year, then reported this week for the team's mandatory three-day minicamp that began Tuesday. He said he "felt it was very important .. to come here and be a leader and be the person I've always been making plays, communicating and things like that ... That's who I'm always going to be."

One thing that made it easier for Byard to work out on his own is the fact that Shane Bowen is going into his fourth season as defensive coordinator. The biggest change was the hiring of Chris Harris as the defense's new passing game coordinator and cornerbacks coach.

Byard said he stayed in touch with coaches to learn any changes to Tennessee's defense, which in 2022 ranked first in the league by allowing 76.9 rushing yards per game but last by allowing 274.8 passing yards per game. He also talked a lot with head coach Mike Vrabel — at the golf course.

Just like Byard, defensive lineman Denico Autry reported for the mandatory minicamp after doing offseason work on his own. Vrabel said he used both veterans as examples Wednesday.

"Denico and Kevin showed up for the mandatory minicamp (and had) obviously been working, ready to go, brought energy, picked up where they left off, and so that's the expectation for everybody whether they're here or not," Vrabel said.

Byard, who agreed to a contract extension in July 2019, currently ranks second only to quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the Tennessee roster with a $19.6 million salary cap hit, according to Spotrac.com. He is under contract through 2024.

The four-time defensive captain was the first pick of the third round in the 2016 NFL draft, making him the Titans' longest-tenured player on defense. He also leads all NFL safeties with 27 interceptions since the start of the 2017 season.

Byard started working out on his own in late February. He will be 30 years old by the time the season kicks off, and he said players need different approaches at different stages of their careers.

He's also not the first to stay away from the voluntary portion of the offseason program.

Said Byard: "I just control the things that I can control."