Since their return to the NFL in 1999, the Cleveland Browns haven’t had too many franchise-type players. While left tackle Joe Thomas is an obvious future Hall of Famer, cornerback Joe Haden could be an answer as well. One of the top defensive backs to wear the orange and brown in recent memory, the 28-year-old’s career has been a roller coaster, filled with peaks and valleys, the latter of which has unfortunately taken place over the last couple seasons.
Heading into 2017, Haden, like the Browns, have plenty of high hopes. After being named a Pro Bowl alternate last season, the cornerback believes he can be one of the best defensive backs in the league, according to 92.3 The Fan’s Daryl Ruiter.
“Of course, I think I can be the best corner in the game still. This is my eighth season, I just turned 28, I’m ready to get after it. Without the injuries, without the stuff – it’s been a lot, it’s been tough, trying to fight through it but I feel like when I’m out there healthy, can’t nobody mess with me.”
After an injury-riddled 2015 and 2016 when he combined to play in just 18 games in two seasons, Haden knows that in order to potentially be the best, he must be at 100 percent for the entire season. Along with a solid core group and the hopeful addition of Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, among others, No. 23 made it known that hiring Gregg Williams as the new defensive coordinator will improve the defense instantly. Whether it’s Williams’ fire, knowledge, or energy, he brings a whole new aspect to the Browns.
“It’s a shock, but that’s what we need,” Haden said. “We need somebody that’s going to switch it up, change it up, tell us something, cuss us out, scream at us, let us know that we’re sorry right now and we’ve got to be better. I’m excited about having him here because I feel like it’s a new energy and, shoot, we need that.”
In fact, Williams admitted that if Haden didn’t play through injuries in 2016, the cornerback would have found himself on a new team this offseason. The defensive coordinator loves Haden’s toughness.
“When I first got here and I met him, I went up to his office and we talked for a while, just about my toughness and about the biggest thing he told me was, ‘If you didn’t play through your injury I would tell them to get you out of here.’ So he was in my face as soon as I met him.”
The addition of Williams can instantly help the Browns defensively. If Haden stays healthy in 2017, that will instantly bring even more improvement. Now, we just have to wait and see.
The Cavaliers may have brought Cleveland its first major sports championship since 1964, but Haden, much like many Clevelanders, know that the Browns winning the Super Bowl would trump all and give The Land their biggest possible celebration. The Browns are very, very far away from achieving that dream, but the fan-favorite and Cavs fan hopes that eventually the Browns can bring as much excitement to the shores of Lake Erie as the wine and gold did on June 19, 2016. If he returns to be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, that is a step in the correct direction.