This article was posted this morning shortly after Joe Haden was released and it reflects mostly on Haden’s fit with the Seahawks. He then signed with the Steelers on Wednesday afternoon, so keep that in mind while reading. Haden signed a three-year, $27 million contract to go to Pittsburgh and reportedly Cleveland offered to pay him the same if he was willing to take a paycut and he was not.
If you were hoping the Cleveland Browns would release a notable player named Joe, you got your wish. If you were hoping that it was Joe Thomas, you did not. The Browns released cornerback Joe Haden on Wednesday, a surprise move that neither seems to make them better or save them money that needed to be saved.
Haden signed a $67.5 million extension in 2014 and more of the contract situation was broken down by Jason Fitzgerald at OvertheCap:
Haden had one of the more player friendly contracts in the NFL and arguably one of the best contracts among cornerbacks even if not the highest. The Browns really pushed the bar with him on guarantees and structure despite the fact that he really was a notch below the top players when he signed a $67.5 million extension in 2014.
Cutting Haden leaves the Browns with $7.3 million in dead money this year and another $3.6 million in 2018. $4 million of his salary is guaranteed and will be paid by the Browns unless he signs with another team, which should happen pretty quickly. Whatever he signs for with another team will offset the Browns obligation to him and the Browns will receive a salary cap credit next year.
Haden was set to make $11.1 million this season, a high number for a corner who has missed 14 games over the last two years and hasn’t been a Pro Bowler since 2014. However, Haden is only 28 and the former seventh overall pick had 16 interceptions over his first five seasons and did what so few humans have managed to do: Became a success on the Browns.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are rumored to be the frontrunners for Haden, giving them an advantage in their weakest area while adding a player who is already familiar with all the receivers in the division, especially Corey Coleman, Josh Gordon (if he ever returns) and some of Pitt’s real rivals on the Ravens and Bengals.
The idea of the Seattle Seahawks signing Haden makes some sense because of obvious reasons: He’s been good, they’re good, they have questions at corner. However, Haden has fallen out of favor in Cleveland for a reason. Repeat: Joe Haden didn’t have a place with the Cleveland Browns anymore and I don’t believe the Browns are giving up on this season despite their recent moves of cutting him and trading 2015 first rounder Cam Erving. That being said his cost may not be prohibitive in any sense. Back to Fitzgerald:
Because Haden is already owed $4 million by the Browns the most likely contract will be one that pays him the minimum, which I believe is $900,000. Anything more than that but under $4 million simply helps the Browns and would make no sense for a team to do. Given Haden’s play it is unlikely a team would pay him much more than $4 million anyway especially this late in the year when many teams are tight on cap room.
The Seahawks could fit $900,000 on the roster, and could offer Haden a chance to compete for the Super Bowl, but they’ve been working all summer on building a secondary that includes Shaquill Griffin, Jeremy Lane, and Bradley McDougald at corner, alongside Richard Sherman. I could see them adding a corner before the season, but I’m not sure I could see them adding a player of Haden’s caliber. The type of player who wouldn’t just help but who would take over the attention. A player who could overshadow the seven years of history that Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor have together. Can Haden seamlessly fit into a secondary as the fourth-best, fourth-most important player?
I’m not sure that he can or that he wants to or that the other three guys want him to.
Also, Joe Haden might actually be bad. Per PFF, he was one of the worst-performing corners in the NFL in 2016, allowing a league-high six touchdowns. He has not shown any improvement on that mark in the preseason. Even in his two Pro Bowl seasons — 2013, 2014 — Haden was good, but getting extra credit probably because of his draft status and the fact that so few players on Cleveland’s roster were good.
For that matter, Haden may not be a good signing for the Seahawks, even at the league minimum. Better Joe next time.