A lot has changed for cornerback Joe Haden since May of 2014.
Back then, he had just inked a huge contract extension with the Cleveland Browns. He was seen league-wide as one of the best players at his position. Heck, he even said as much himself.
“I rank myself at one. I’m going to keep grinding like I’m No. 1,” Haden said after signing his new deal. “I feel like in my heart I’m the No. 1 corner in the league; I’ve been feeling like that for a while.”
In the time since, there’s a good chance Haden is the only person who would still consider himself an upper-tier cornerback.
The season following his new deal was marked with shaky coverage, which made it difficult for Cleveland to continue lining him up against the opposing team’s best wide out. The next year, Haden only played five games due to concussion issues. While he appeared in 13 games last season, groin injuries sapped him of his abilities throughout the campaign.
As you can see, Haden hasn’t exactly delivered what the Browns were hoping for when signing him to a massive extension. This makes today’s report from CBS Sports relatively unsurprising.
Whether or not the Browns are able to move Haden remains to be seen. That said, it’s looking more and more likely that one of the most popular athletes in Cleveland is on borrowed time with the team.
The writing appeared to be on the wall a few months ago, when Haden talked about the first time he met with new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Never known for holding back, the coach told Haden that, had he been on the staff last year, he would’ve cut him.
Obviously, this was a bit of a “show me” comment, with Williams making it clear he needed to see more from one of the most expensive players on his defense. However, three weeks into the preseason, it doesn’t look like Haden has been up to the challenge.
He’s struggled in coverage during Cleveland’s three exhibition games, still looking a step behind in coverage. While fellow corners Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty have stood out, Haden appears to be falling by the wayside. It’s all led to team play-by-play voice Jim Donovan referring to him as the Browns’ “third best cornerback.”
As you can see, it’s really no surprise Cleveland is shopping Haden. The problem is he’s under contract through 2019, owed yearly eight-figure salaries until then. It’ll be an incredibly difficult contract to move. If the Browns can trade him, don’t expect much in return.
The problem for Haden, though, is the fact he may not be long for Cleveland even if the team can’t trade him before Week 1.
Even before today’s rumors, many around the team were wondering if he was even going to make the final cut. As mentioned, he clearly wasn’t playing like a starting cornerback, so the idea of paying him like one likely doesn’t come off as appealing for the Browns’ front office. If it can’t find a suitor for Haden before the season, don’t count out the idea of their continuing to aggressively shop him through the entire year.
Either way, it’d be quite a disappointing end to his time with the team. Upon being drafted in 2010, Haden quickly became for one of the most celebrated athletes in the city. From frequently being seen court-side at Cleveland Cavaliers games to doing plenty of work around the community, his popularity in Northeast Ohio skyrocketed almost immediately. He’s been a consistent staple on a Browns team which doesn’t know such a concept very well.
At the end of the day, though, the NFL is a business. Cleveland is paying over $11 million this season to a cornerback who’s struggling in coverage. From this perspective, you can see why Haden may soon be heading elsewhere.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook
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