Upon writing about the trade rumors surrounding Joe Haden yesterday, I resisted the urge to discuss the potential of him being straight up cut. While the Cleveland Browns had been making it clear he wasn’t in their future plans, the idea of releasing him despite the dead cap money it would cost seemed lofty. While I certainly considered the possibility, this was as far as I could bring myself.
Which makes today’s news that Cleveland has indeed let Haden go all the more surprising.
Just under 24 hours after the initial rumors broke regarding the Browns actively shopping him in the trade market, they cut him. It was a sudden and bittersweet ending for one of the most popular athletes in Cleveland.
Along with the sudden nature of the announcement, today’s news was also surprising based on what we were hearing from coach Hue Jackson.
Jackson very recently claimed Haden was actually having a great camp, that he was a crucial piece of the team. He made no bones about the fact he wanted him on his roster.
Was this just an example of feeding some lines to the media to calm rumors? Perhaps. It’s doubtful we’ll ever know for sure. Still, Jackson’s comments on Haden didn’t exactly sound like your typical coach-speak.
As far as the overall reaction to this move, there certainly were some signs this move was possible. Haden wasn’t having a great preseason by any means. At the same time, Jamar Taylor, Jason McCourty and Briean Boddy-Calhoun were making names for themselves and solidifying their roster spots. The Browns likely had a tough time swallowing the fact they’d be paying Haden eight figures this year to be fourth on the depth chart.
There are reports Cleveland attempted to negotiate a pay-cut with the veteran, but it seems he unsurprisingly balked at such a proposal. As a result of this, along with the inability to move him in a trade, the team apparently saw releasing him as the only option.
Once the surprise of the announcement subsided, you couldn’t help but sympathize for Haden. You’d be hard-pressed to find a pro athlete who was more passionate about the town he played in, who so embraced what was then an incredibly hard-luck city immediately.
Drafted in 2010 by a Browns team having just gone 5-11, Haden relocated to Cleveland just a couple months before LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. The city was left with a black eye and a bruised ego, the butt of endless national jokes.
It didn’t matter to Haden, who immediately made himself a staple in the community. He was often found downtown interacting with fans, tweeting his location and welcoming any and all who came down in response. Haden was a court-side presence at Cleveland Cavaliers games, regardless of the fact the team was left in ruins by James’ departure.
Most importantly, though, Haden was a talented athlete who wanted to be in Cleveland, during a time when such a concept seemed impossible to come across. Regardless of how often his team struggled, regardless of the fact the city’s other two clubs were in equally hard times, he never stopped being a champion for the town.
Despite his recent on-field struggles and his bout with various injuries, Haden should always be remembered for how well he acclimated with the city of Cleveland. The stories you hear from fans about their experiences with the former Brown are endless, and almost always positive. Supporters of the team shouldn’t let his slip in performance erase any of that.
From a football standpoint, you can make sense of the move. He seemed to be losing a step while other cornerbacks were establishing themselves. Even if the Browns kept Haden this year, it likely would’ve been his farewell tour.
From the perspective of a fan, though, today’s news was tough to swallow. Someone who embraced the city of Cleveland from day one, who proudly played for a team which hasn’t had an above .500 record since 2007, was sent packing.
It was a business move, I get that. It doesn’t change the fact it’ll be hard to see Haden go, especially in such cold fashion.
Best of luck, Joe, and thanks for the memories.