There are tough decisions made by NFL front offices almost every day. Even with signings and drafts and extenstions, cut days tend to be the most difficult ones. Wednesday is a day that was undoubtedly hard for the Browns front office. In advance of Saturday’s deadline of cutting the 90-man roster to just 53 players, the Browns have released long-time starter and two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden.
The move appears to have been made as a financial decision. The Browns save $3.6 million on the 2017 cap. Assuming they do not spend that money, it will rollover onto the 2018 cap. In addition to that rollover money, the Browns have moved the $3.2 million commitment next year for Haden’s signing bonus to 2017, so cutting him now has created a potential $6.8 million on the Browns 2018 cap. It is possible that the Browns will sign some post-cut players from other teams, but doubtful the Browns will spend a significant portion of that money in 2017.
The Browns also reportedly met with Haden and his representation in Tampa Bay to attempt to have him take a pay cut. He declined.
Per source, Browns tried to get Joe Haden to take a pay cut from his $11 million salary. Haden declined. He's now a free agent.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 30, 2017
Haden has been slowed by injuries over the past few years, he was limited to only five games in 2015 and 13 in 2016, and his play while on the field has been less than stellar. Cornerback stats are always a bit harder to judge, but Haden had noticeably lost a step or two when he was able to gear up and play. News broke yesterday that the Browns were aggressively trying to find a trade partner for Haden yesterday, but evidently, there were no takers.
Cutting Haden leaves a hole at starting corner, which should be filled by Briean Boddy-Calhoun or Jason McCourty. Both will see time at the position and will be starting across from Jamar Taylor. Boddy-Calhoun started seven games last year for Cleveland, his rookie season, and impressed Head Coach Hue Jackson and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams through training camp and the preseason. Jason McCourty is in his first season with the Browns after coming over from Tennessee.
Both Hue Jackson and Browns Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown had glowing remarks in regards to Haden. “Joe gave everything he had for the Cleveland Browns and that’s all you can ask for as a coach,” said Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson. “He was a leader on and off the field. I wish him all the best as he continues his career.” Sashi Brown had this to say, “We want to thank Joe for all he has done for this organization both on and off the field. He has been a great teammate and a true asset to the Cleveland community. These are very difficult decisions, we have the utmost respect for Joe and in my eyes, he will always be a Cleveland Brown.”
It’s tough to see a player like Haden cut from the team, especially on a defense that has looked promising in the preseason. Getting savings for next year wherever possible has been the focal point of the front office for some time, and this is a move made with an eye to the future.