NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport was the first to break the news, tweeting that a source had informed him that the Cleveland Browns had released cornerback Joe Haden. The news was then officially announced by the team soon thereafter. This, of course, came only one day after Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports revealed that he had heard from several teams that the Browns were aggressively trying to trade the former Pro Bowler.
In 2014, the team gave Haden a five-year, $67.5 million extension. That year, he made his second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance and looked to be one of the team’s few building blocks. However, over the last two seasons, he has struggled due to injuries, only playing 18 out of a possible 32 games. Haden missed time with a finger injury and a concussion in 2015. Last year, he battled two groin injuries that required offseason surgery to fix.
Trading him would also prove impossible to do because of Haden’s contract, which is nowhere near his current level of performance, which has been very inconsistent and generally poor. According to football analytics site ProFootball Focus, their grading system had Haden ranked 115 out of 132 cornerbacks in the NFL last year. According to sports contract site Spotrac, any team wanting to trade for Haden would have to agree to a major cap hit over the next few seasons.
By moving on from Haden, the Browns save $6.7 million in cap room this season but have $7.7 million in dead cap for 2017 and $3.2 million in dead cap for 2018, according to Spotrac. However, the team’s dead cap number will be reduced somewhat whenever he signs with a new team, which should be sooner rather than later.
This is because Haden is not subject to waivers, so he can sign with another team after 4 p.m. Eastern Time today instead of having to wait two days. Ian Rapoport did point out that if Haden were to sign with a new team for less than $4 million, that team would only have to pay him the minimum. Meanwhile, the Browns would be on the hook for the rest of the contract.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, two teams that are anticipated to have a strong interest in Haden’s services are the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs. ESPN’s Todd Archer also added that the Dallas Cowboys have some interest in Haden but they are concerned about how much they may have to pay him and his long term health.
NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala then reported that the Pittsburgh Steelers were becoming one of the team’s lobbying for the cornerback’s services. She said that Antonio Brown and others from the team were endorsing signing Haden. Schefter would soon follow up this report by saying that they had emerged as the favorite to sign him.
Joe Haden’s agent Drew Rosenhaus did tell Schefter that there was “tons of interest in him” and that “he will have a new deal with another team by tomorrow afternoon.” Based on the teams interested in Haden, who is still only 28-years-old, it seems that he will indeed have a new home shortly.
In the Browns’ official statement regarding Haden’s release, both executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and head Coach Hue Jackson had only positive things to say about the cornerback.
Brown said, “He has been a great teammate and a true asset to the Cleveland community.”
For his part, Jackson said, “He was a leader on and off the field. I wish him all the best as he continues his career.”
Haden himself addressed his release on Instagram this morning, expressing optimism regarding his future. Given all the team’s interested in him, his future looks like it could be bright as the cornerback will try to resurrect his career elsewhere.
Sources have told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Joe Haden has agreed to a three-year, $27 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The former Browns cornerback had already visited with the Steelers after being waived. Schefter also said that his sources told him that Haden had offers from other teams. However, he turned them all down because he wanted to play for Pittsburgh, who will be paying him $7 million this year.
[Featured Image by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images]