CLEVELAND -- It's been five months since the Cleveland Browns released Joe Haden, but details regarding the controversial departure of the former Pro Bowl cornerback -- and its subsequent impact -- are just now emerging.
Last week, Haden revealed to Sports Illustrated that he was upset when now-former Browns vice president of football operations Sashi Brown had asked him to take a paycut. If the team was paying soon-to-be-cut quarterback Brock Osweiler $16 million, why was he the one who needed to shed salary, Haden reasoned before asking for his release and signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Regardless of where you stand on the Browns' decision to cut ties with one of their most prominent players, the move clearly didn't sit well inside the Cleveland locker room either. On the latest episode of the "Thomahawk Show" podcast, Joe Thomas shared his thoughts on Haden's untimely release.
"It was really sad for a lot of the guys in the locker room,” Thomas said. “I think this year the Browns made a lot of moves, trading guys, releasing guys, but in the 2017 season, I think that move when they cut Joe Haden was probably the most deflating move for the coaching staff and the players in the locker room."
Thomas, who hosts his podcast alongside former Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins, also noted the impact Haden's release had on the younger players on Cleveland's roster.
"Especially all those young guys we have, they all looked up to Joe, they loved Joe, everyone loved him and we’re thinking, ‘We cut this guy and we have $70 million in cap space? What is that trying to say about the season?.'”
Thomas' fears would come to fruition, with the Browns recording what was just the second 0-16 season in NFL history. Haden, meanwhile, played a prominent role on the Pittsburgh defense as the Steelers won yet another AFC North title.
Maybe keeping Haden would have helped Cleveland win a game this season or maybe he wouldn't have. But to the players and coaches in Berea, the message management sent by cutting Haden with an abundance of cap space made it appear that winning wasn't the priority for the Browns in 2017.