Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Gone cornerback

Money talks. It also bought a one-way ticket out of Cleveland for Joe Haden.

For the last couple of days, speculation was rampant the Browns were actively shopping the former Pro Bowl cornerback.

They pulled the trigger on the 28-year-old Haden Wednesday, flat out releasing him in a surprise move after apparently failing to put together a satisfactory deal.

One of the main reasons for Haden’s exit, although the club would not disclose it, is the kind of money the seven-year veteran is due the next three seasons, including the upcoming one: $32.5 million. It is not known whether the $11 million due Haden this season is fully guaranteed.

In the National Football League, there is no such thing as multi-year contracts. In reality, they are a series of one-year contracts that can be terminated at any time and the team is not obligated to pay the full amount. The only number that counts against the salary cap is the prorated figure for a signing bonus.

If this wasn’t a move made because of money, it’s hard to comprehend the reasons behind it. Haden, by all accounts, was having a solid training camp. Just ask his coach.

“I think he has had a great training camp,” said Hue Jackson the day before the release. “I think he has played well in our games. He is a huge piece of what we do on defense.”

And now that piece is headed elsewhere.

Haden, who has missed 14 games the last two seasons due to a number of injuries, was thought to be healthy this season. He played in all three exhibition games, logging seven tackles (six solos) in limited time.

Haden started every exhibition opposite Jamar Taylor. His release most likely elevates Briean Boddy-Calhoun to starting status with Jason McCourty, Marcus Burley, Darius Hillary, Channing Stribling and Trey Caldwell battling for the two (maybe three) backup spots.

In releasing Haden, the Browns hauled out all the usual platitudes lavished when cutting a veteran. To wit:

“We want to thank Joe for all he has done for this organization both on and off the field,” said VP of football operations Sashi Brown. “He has been a great teammate and a true asset to the Cleveland community . . . we have the utmost respect for Joe and in my eyes he will always be a Cleveland Brown.”

Added Jackson, “Joe gave everything he had for the Cleveland Browns and that’s all you can ask as a coach. He was a leader on and off the field. I wish him all the best as he continues his career.” What a difference a day makes.

Haden, at one time believed to be one of the best cover corners in the NFL, should have no trouble landing somewhere, especially with the cutdown deadline approaching this weekend.

Teams all over the league will be massaging their rosters and a talent like Haden will not go unnoticed. His reputation is such, there is a distinct possibility a team will snap him up now that he is a free agent rather than wait for the weekend.
(Report: The Pittsburgh Steelers have offered Haden a three-year, $27 million contract. If he accepts the offer, the Steelers likely would give him a crash course in how they play defense and he could be ready to play against his old team in the season-opening game in Cleveland on Sept. 10. Update: Haden signed with the Steelers for the above figures.)
Haden leaves Cleveland with 19 career interceptions, one touchdown and four forced fumbles.
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This just in: The Browns found a willing trade partner to take offensive lineman Cameron Erving off their hands and payroll, shipping him to the Kansas City Chiefs for a conditional fifth-round selection in the 2018 college football draft.

At this point, it is uncertain what the conditions are for the former first-round draft pick, who has disappointed at several positions along the offensive line. If the conditions are met, it raises the Browns' haul in the next lottery to 13 selections, including two firsts and three seconds.

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