The Browns, in the most Cleveland of moves, decided to release cornerback Joe Haden after aggressively attempting to trade him over the past few weeks. Haden has three years of big money left on his contract that likely warded off any potential trade suitors. Releasing Haden, is somewhat bizarre given that the move only frees up 4 million in cap space while leaving the Browns with "$7.3 million in dead money this year and another $3.6 million in 2018."
When Haden signs with another team, any money from that contract will be deducted from the 4 million guaranteed the Browns still owe him and will offset cap space he will take up in 2018.
As long as Haden clears waivers, he's will become a free agent and can negotiate a new deal with any team of his choice. He's got four million in the bank and, given the decline in his performance of the last two years, he can only command but so much for so long.
There are a lot of suitors, however. The Steelers have emerged as early favorites to acquire Haden. After playing for the Browns for the past seven years, Haden will likely want to join a contender. He's shared his frustration with playing with a losing organization, stating:
"It's tough, it's super tough. I've never been in a situation like this where we're literally the laughingstock of every joke. I can't look at any sports net or anything and they're not saying at least he's not going to the browns, stuff like that. It's tough, it sucks and you're hearing if from everywhere. Everybody's giving it to you."
Drew Rosenhaus, Haden's agent, has said the phones are ringing off the hook for Haden's services. The interest, and one that Rosenhaus clearly will want to play up, will only drive the price-tag up. Haden is coming off of two injury-plagued seasons that both resulted in offseason surgeries, leaving teams to likely want to secure Haden's service on a short-term prove contract. This past season, he had both groin muscles repaired. Playing through injury significantly diminished Haden's production, who went from 2-time Pro Bowler to the 88th ranked corner. Haden looks, however, to be healthy and returning to form--unless his release is evidence of the contrary. Browns Head Coach, Hugh Jackson, described Haden's return, stating, "He’s bigger. I think Joe’s put on 7, 8 pounds. I think he’s running extremely well. … When he’s practiced, he’s practiced extremely well, and when he’s played in competitive situations, he’s done that very well.”
Over the Cap's Jason Fitzgerald likened the Haden situation to that of Brandon Flowers who signed with the Chargers after being released by the Kansas City Chiefs. Fitzgerald noted, "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 Panthers have about 15 million in cap space and there is a need on a defense for a contributor and at worst depth. The Panthers seem to have a player in James Bradberry, but the jury is still out on sophomore Daryl Worley. He showed lots of promise towards the end of last season and had a nice training camp. Worley hasn't been all that great in the the preseason, however. Adding Haden could give Carolina a legit #2 corner and arguably make a secondary composed of two #1 caliber players. Haden could top off what already could be Carolina's best defense ever and position himself in a good place to parlay a 1-yr deal into another big-time contract by playing on a top-level defense, all while joining a contender.
By Tony Dunn
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