When news surfaced on that the Cleveland Browns are aggressively trying to trade cornerback Joe Haden on Tuesday, it wasn’t much of a surprise. What was more of a surprise was that when the Browns couldn’t find a trade partner, the two-time Pro Bowler was cut on Wednesday.
After the trade rumors came about, head coach Hue Jackson and linebacker Christian Kirksey were quoted in support of keeping Haden on the roster. According to the Akron Beacon Journal’s Nate Ulrich, the two talked about No. 23 following practice on Tuesday.
Here’s what the head coach had to say:
“I trust [head of football operations] Sashi [Brown] and his group to make the right decisions that I think is best for our football team,” Jackson said of the rumors. “Do I want Joe Haden on our football team? Yes, but whatever our organization thinks is best for our football team, that’s what we’ll do.”
“I think he’s had a great training camp,” Jackson said. “I think he’s played well in our [preseason] games.”
A teammate of Haden’s since being drafted by the Browns in 2014, Kirksey has looked up to the cornerback for the past three years. Not only has he went to him for advice, but he also considers Haden one of the biggest leaders on the Browns while he continues to make plays on the field.
“He’s a hell of a player, a hell of a person, and he’s done nothing but great things for this organization,” Kirksey said of Haden. “So I don’t know what’s going on with that whole thing. That’s way above my head. But I’m definitely hoping that he will stay with us.
“He’s having one of his best camps. He’s out there making plays. He’s our leader on our defense. He’s been to multiple Pro Bowls. This is year eight for him. He’s been here making plays,” the linebacker said. “So I would definitely hope to see him still here, but I know it’s a business, and all of that is way above my head.”
The Browns need veteran leadership on a team with so many young players, but at what expense? With Haden not performing on the field and being out-played by at least three of the cornerbacks still on the roster, the team decided it could not afford to pay him as a Top 10 cornerback in the league. Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty will most likely be the starting cornerbacks come September 10 with Brien Boddy-Calhoun set to also play a significant amount of snaps.
Injuries have tarnished the talent that Haden once had. After making the Pro Bowl in both 2013 and 2014, he missed 11 games due to two concussion (and other injuries) in 2015, one of which required ankle surgery last offseason. Then, in 2016, he played through a groin injury that caused him to miss three games before having surgery on both groin muscles this offseason. In April, he made it clear that he believes he can be one of the best corners in the game, but that seems to be all talk at this point after the way he has under-performed throughout the preseason.
With reports now circulating that the Browns discussed pay cuts and possible cuts with Haden and his representation last week, the quotes from Kirksey and Jackson might have been made as a tip of the cap to a well-respected and established veteran. No matter why they were made, they show that Haden’s leadership and personality will be missed in the Browns locker room as much as he will be by the fans in the community.