Say it ain’t so, Joe!
Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden remains one of the top players on the free-agent market. On June 22, Haden hinted on Instagram at a reunion with Steelers’ nemesis, the Cleveland Browns.
According to the post, Haden is in discussions with the team that selected him No. 7 overall in the 2010 NFL draft.
This isn’t the first time Haden teased a potential return to the Browns. On May 12, he posted a photo on Instagram of him in a Steelers and Browns uniform with the cryptic caption: “Let’s see what’s about to HAPPEN NEXT!!??!!”
In 90 games with Cleveland, Haden contributed 19 interceptions for 231 yards and a score. He added 101 defended passes, four forced fumbles and 377 total tackles.
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Joe Haden became an instant fan favorite in Pittsburgh when the team snapped him up on the free-agent market moments after his release from Cleveland in 2017.
Not only did the fans love him, but the team loved him, too. For five seasons, Haden was Mr. Reliable at a position that desperately needed it, logging 10 picks, 54 defended passes, three forced fumbles, 238 total tackles and 1.0 sacks in 68 games.
But all good things must come to an end, as the Steelers chose not to re-sign Haden, 33, after his contract expired in March. Pittsburgh wants to go younger and did so with the acquisition of Levi Wallace, 27, in free agency.
In August 2021, Haden was vocal about wanting to finish out his career in the Black & Gold, but the season came and went without a deal.
“Joe Haden is not coming back,” Mark Kaboly of The Athletic confirmed on The Cook & Joe Show on June 22. “It’s pretty sure he’ll sign somewhere else. The Steelers aren’t interested in him.”
It’s a shame they couldn’t reach an agreement that worked for both parties. Even though he’s lost a step in five seasons, the secondary won’t be the same minus Haden.
The Steelers currently have what Kaboly called “a bunch of average dudes” manning the cornerback unit. “You’re looking at three guys in [Cam] Sutton, [Levi] Wallace and [Ahkello] Witherspoon that doesn’t really have a huge resume that follows them.”
Just Because They Can
At $42 million, the Cleveland Browns have the most salary cap space of any team in the league. While they could easily pull off signing Haden to a veteran minimum contract, it doesn’t mean they will.
The Browns boast one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL with Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II. Ward, a two-time Pro Bowler, was recently signed to a lucrative contract which made him — albeit briefly — the highest-paid at his position.
Greedy Williams and Martin Emerson, selected No. 68 overall in this year’s draft, offer solid depth at the cornerback position.
With the Steelers seemingly disinterested in granting Haden’s wish to retire in Pittsburgh, you can’t blame him for going full circle if he returns to the team that brought him into the league.