Hayward, 33, was brought in for the 2022 season to be the starter opposite A.J. Terrell. He played six games -- defending three passes with an interception -- before suffering a torn pec trying to tackle San Francisco 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel, an injury that ended his season.
Hayward, a second-round pick by Green Bay in 2012 who became a Pro Bowler for the Chargers in 2016 and 2017, has played 152 games with 118 starts, 25 interceptions and 2 touchdowns between the Packers, Chargers, Raiders and Falcons.
By releasing Hayward, who grew up in Georgia, the Falcons are saving $5 million in cap space while incurring a $2 million dead cap hit from his signing bonus when the team brought him in last year.
In the offseason, Atlanta traded for cornerback Jeff Okudah with Detroit and signed Mike Hughes in free agency. Hughes is expected to play in the slot and Okudah on the outside, where he was a starter for the Lions last season.
With Hayward's release, Okudah will become the pre-draft favorite to start opposite Terrell at corner for the Falcons. Both Terrell and Okudah have potential fifth-year options that could be picked up by Atlanta as a result of being first-round picks in 2020.