Tennessee Titans defensive backs Kevin Byard and Kristian Fulton aren’t present at organized team activities (OTAs), head coach Mike Vrabel confirmed on Tuesday. Both players may be absent due to contract related standoffs. Let’s examine.
Mike Vrabel on Byard, Fulton. #Titans pic.twitter.com/y2WloTqcm1— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) May 23, 2023
#Titans HC Mike Vrabel when asked if DB Kristian Fulton is here for OTAs. "Nope"— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) May 23, 2023
Byard’s absence is particularly notable because it’s been a rocky offseason for him and the Titans. General manager Ran Carthon previously confirmed that the Titans asked Byard to take a pay cut this offseason. Byard understandably refused. It’s a contract-related standoff that led to rumors of Byard requesting a trade. Carthon denied those rumors.
Something is obviously up because Byard is typically present at OTAs. Vrabel downplayed Byard’s absence by claiming the two recently had a productive conversation. Vrabel said Byard we’ll arrive when the time’s right. We’ll see. Byard is scheduled to earn a base salary of $13.6 million this season, and in 2024, per Spotrac.
Fulton may be absent for a similar reason. The No. 61 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, Fulton is currently scheduled to enter a fate-deciding contract season. Fulton is scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.3 million this year, per Spotrac. There’s no denying that Fulton qualifies as underpaid.
Fulton may be pandering for a contract extension. I’d be surprised if the Titans granted him one. Fulton’s inconsistent play, and most importantly, his health, hasn’t proven that he warrants a multi-year extension. Fulton has been generally productive when on the field, but availability has been a constant issue. Fulton has missed a minimum of four games every single year since entering the league in 2020.
Fulton missed six contests in 2022 with recurring hamstring and groin injuries. Knee and hamstring injuries limited Fulton to 13 regular-season appearances in 2021. As a rookie in 2020, Fulton was active for just six games due to a knee injury that landed him on IR.
Byard is arguably Tennessee’s most important defensive player. Fulton is expected to join Byard as a starter in Tennessee’s defensive backfield. Neither player is currently present, and both situations are worth monitoring.