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Kevin Byard details why he chose to sign with Bears in free agency

Kevin Byard details why he chose to sign with Bears in free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST — Kevin Byard became a free agent for the first time in his career when the Philadelphia Eagles made him a cap casualty on March 3. The veteran safety’s first venture into free agency lasted nine days before he agreed to sign a two-year contract with the Bears to fill the void left by the recently released Eddie Jackson.

The two-time All-Pro is a film junkie and had a good idea of the defensive pieces the Bears have, especially in the secondary, when his agent called to notify him of their interest.

For Byard, joining a team that he views as one of the ascending teams in the NFL was an easy decision.

“I really like what Coach Matt [Eberflus] is building here just as a team,” Byard said Thursday at his introductory press conference at Halas Hall. “There’s a lot of things to be excited about. But like I said, this defense has a lot of great pieces here for sure, especially in the secondary. Obviously, just signed Jaylon to a big extension, I really think highly of him. He’s a really great player. And obviously, getting with Brisker, Jaquan, I think he’s a really good ascending player as well. But obviously, there’s a lot of pieces, from Kyler Gordon, obviously Tyrique Stevenson was a rookie last year. So I like what they’re doing in the secondary. And obviously, you got Montez Sweat, who obviously you brought in in a trade.

“A lot of great pieces and obviously two really good linebackers, so excited about this defense and just excited about the prospect of what we could in this team and the challenge of obviously trying to knock Detroit off the high horse.”

Having spent seven-plus years with the Tennessee Titans, Byard got a good feel for Eberflus’ defense while the Bears’ head coach was the defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts. That AFC South experience, coupled with what he saw on film from the 2023 Bears, was enough for Byard to know he’d be the ideal fit in a young secondary that needs another veteran voice alongside star cornerback Jaylon Johnson.

“In this defense period, I see a hungry defense, I see guys who want to be successful, I see guys having fun playing together, making plays,” Byard said of Eberflus’ defense. “You want to be a part of something like that. That’s what’s very exciting for me. Just having a lot of pieces already in place on this defense, I can just come in and do what I need to do to help this team and help this defense take it to the next level.

“It was exciting for me,” Byard continued later about the chance to join the Bears. “It was an exciting prospect, obviously already knowing the team and kind of going down the roster and the pieces that we have, I’m always up for a really good challenge. I think with this division and the team that they have, the you guys and the energy around here, I think it’s going to be an exciting time this year. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

The Titans traded Byard at the midway point of last season. He played well in Philadelphia but was released as a cap casualty in March.

That would fuel the fire for many former All-Pros. But Byard isn’t wired like that. He’s driven by unfettered belief in himself. The outside noise has never fueled his football journey.

“I’ve never been in the business of trying to prove anybody wrong,” Byard said. “I’m in the business of trying to prove myself right. Over my entire career, if I’m underrated or anything like that, I just try to prove myself right. I know what type of player I am. I know what type of player I’ve been my entire career, and I will seek to prove myself right again.

“I’ve been working my behind off already this offseason. I’m excited to come in and be that piece for this defense and display my ball-hawking skills and things like that. I’m sure with the pieces that we have, it will be on show for real.”

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