Browns release Joe Haden, and of course, the Steelers sign him
There’s an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is falling in love with a girl until he finds out that she was once dumped by Newman. He figures that Newman’s standards are so low that if this girl wasn’t good enough for him, there must be something seriously wrong with her. Jerry dumps her rather than waiting to find out what the issue is.
If the NFL operated under those standards, Joe Haden would never get another job. The Cleveland Browns are the Newman of pro sports. They decided that there was no place on their roster for a 28-year-old cornerback with two Pro Bowls on his resume. This is a team with enough cap space to sign Neymar; Haden’s $11 million salary wasn’t the issue. If salary was a concern, then Brock Osweiler certainly wouldn’t be on the roster. This is a team so desperate for decent players that they took on Osweiler’s albatross of a contract just to get a draft pick. If Haden had anything left at all, they would certainly hang on to him.
If the rest of the league thought like Jerry Seinfeld, they would all assume that the Browns must have five or six cornerbacks better than Joe Haden. Furthermore, they would assume that if Haden isn’t good enough to play for the Browns, he can’t make any other team in the NFL. Hell, he may not be cut out for the CFL or AFL either. It didn’t work out that way, though. Haden was out of work for about as long as it took to type the press release announcing his departure from Cleveland. At this point you’re no doubt figuring that some team must be even dumber than Cleveland, to waste a roster spot on this shell of a player.
It didn’t work out that way, though. Haden was out of work for about as long as it took to type the press release announcing his departure from Cleveland. At this point, you’re no doubt assuming that some team must be even dumber than Cleveland to waste a roster spot on this shell of a player. Well, that team happens to be the Pittsburgh Steelers — you know, the organization with a reputation for savvy personnel moves. That’s the team with as many Super Bowl wins in this century as the Browns have winning seasons (two). They are the team who are heavily favored to win the AFC North before they signed Haden.
So, how is a guy bad enough to be cut by the Browns, but is good enough to probably have significant playing time for the Steelers? Who are the Browns opening their season against? That’s right, the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cleveland.
While the Browns draft Trent Richardson and Johnny Manziel in the first round, the Steelers draft Antonio Brown in the sixth. The Steelers are just smarter. They aren’t looking for some magical measurable formula that tells them whether to draft a guy or cut a guy. They just find football players. Haden is a football player, and he plays the position that until today was the weak link on a potential Super Bowl team. If you know absolutely nothing about football, and you base your analysis of this situation solely on the fact that it’s the Browns doing one thing and the Steelers doing the opposite, you’d be right most of the time.
“The Cleveland Browns are the Newman of pro sports”
This isn’t a lock to work out. Haden is 28, injury-prone, and may have lost a step. Even if the whole three-year deal isn’t guaranteed, the Steelers could end up with some dead money if Haden is washed up. Still, the fact that almost half the league showed interest in Haden, enough so that the Steelers may have overpaid just to get the deal done and foreclose a bidding war, tells you that there’s a widespread perception that Haden can still play. If he’s anywhere close to his best years in Cleveland, he’ll be starting by midseason.
From Cleveland’s point of view, you have to wonder why they were in such a hurry. They wanted Haden to rework his deal. The reports were that they decided to trade him when he wouldn’t go along with that. But the cap space wasn’t an issue. The roster cut deadline wasn’t pressing, and it’s not like the Browns have a bevy of guys waiting in the wings to replace him. They got a fifth-round pick today for Cameron Erving, a lineman who in two pro seasons has provided no evidence that he should be getting paid to play football. Hell, last year they got a sixth-round pick for Justin Gilbert, who not on sucks at football but at life in general, to the extent that he hasn’t mastered the intricacies of an alarm clock. If they had been willing to wait a week, or even let Haden play a couple of regular season games to prove he’s healthy, couldn’t they have gotten more for him than they got for Erving or Gilbert?
If the rumors are true that half the teams in the league wanted to sign Haden as a free agent, then one of those teams would have been willing to give up a draft pick for him. As the season progresses and guys get hurt or suck, his value could have only gone up, because there is literally not a team in the NFL that wouldn’t like to be deeper at cornerback. The worst-case scenario would be to hang on to him and find out that he is indeed washed up. If this scenario played out, they could cut Haden and end up with exactly what they have today — nothing.
It’s not a good idea for any NFL team to give up an asset without getting something in return. For a team as talent-starved as Cleveland, it’s borderline insane. Browns fans will find out just how insane when they watch Haden in Week 1.