A former Cleveland Browns Pro Bowler dropped a major hint Thursday that he may be returning to the team, or at least that he would be open to it.
The Browns recently solidified their secondary by locking up lockdown cornerback Denzel Ward by way of the richest contract at the position in NFL history. Cleveland could make the back end of its defense even more fearsome should the team decide to pursue cornerback Joe Haden, who played in the city between 2010-16.
Haden, who hit free agency this offseason following a five-year stint with the AFC North Division rival Pittsburgh Steelers, took to Instagram on May 12 where he posted a photo of himself in both black and gold as well as orange and brown.
The photo came equipped with a cryptic caption that read: “Let’s see what’s about to HAPPEN NEXT!!??!!”
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Browns Have The Salary Cap Flexibility to Sign Joe Haden
There have been no reports from national NFL news breakers or local Browns insiders of talks between the team and Haden to date, nor any buzz about Cleveland looking to add more top-end talent to its secondary.
That said, the team still has more than $27.5 million in cap space to spend this offseason, per Over The Cap. The Browns are pushing to finalize a deal that would bring back edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney for the next two seasons, with the most recent offer reported at $12 million annually.
Some of the money left over was thought once to be earmarked for another playmaker in the passing game, but after drafting David Bell out of Purdue and Michael Woods II out of Oklahoma, it appears Cleveland is prepared to stand pat with the offensive roster it already has.
There are other needs along the interior of the defensive line, but the Browns theoretically will have the money to bring back Haden even if they sign Clowney, should the team decide to prioritize the secondary among its list of remaining needs.
Haden is coming off of a two-year contract with the Steelers that paid him $11.2 million annually. At 32 years old and two seasons removed from his last Pro Bowl selection, the cornerback isn’t likely to command that much on the open market.
For his career, Haden has tallied 615 tackles, including 14 for loss, 155 passes defensed, 29 interceptions, seven forced fumbles, six recovered fumbles, six quarterback hits, three sacks and two defensive touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference.
Haden Would Join Solid Cornerback Crew in Cleveland
Should Haden find himself in a Browns uniform in 2022, he will be playing alongside one of the better collections of cornerbacks in the NFL.
As noted above, the position group is led by Ward, who signed a contract extension worth more than $100 million this offseason and boasted an overall defensive rating of 76.9 last year, per Pro Football Focus (PFF).
Starting on the other side of Ward is Greg Newsome II, a first-round pick of the Browns in 2021 (No. 26 overall) who started 11 games in Cleveland’s defensive backfield last season. His PFF defensive rating was 68.1.
The two backup corners on the roster are Greedy Williams, who is strong in coverage but less effective as a run stopper and pass rusher than the two starters, and rookie Martin Emerson, who the Browns selected out of Mississippi State with the No. 68 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft.