CLEVELAND -- News of a possible trade of defensive back Joe Haden broke on Tuesday morning, and 24 hours later, when such a deal could not be done, the Cleveland Browns elected to release the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback.
A first-round pick out of the University of Florida in the 2010 NFL Draft, Haden was the second-longest tenured Browns player, behind only 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas.
Here is a look at three reasons why Haden’s release is bad for the Browns:
PRODUCTIVITY DESPITE INJURIES
Health was a major concern when it comes to the Browns’ secondary in recent seasons, and over the last two years, Haden has been bitten by the injury bug on several occasions.
Since signing a long-term contract extension in 2014, Haden missed 15 games because of a wide variety of injuries, everything from a pair of concussions that short-circuited his 2015 season to finger and groin issues that forced him to the sideline for multiple games.
In his seven seasons with the Browns, Haden registered 376 total tackles, including 311 solo stops, 65 assists, two sacks, 101 passes defended, four forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 19 interceptions, which he has returned for 231 yards and one touchdown.
NOTHING FOR SOMETHING
By releasing Haden instead of being patient in the trade market, the Browns did not get a single asset in return, and since Sashi Brown took over control of the 53-man roster on January 3, 2016, acquiring picks in the NFL Draft has been of utmost importance in Berea.
By not getting a pick or a player in return for Haden, the Browns tested the depth in their secondary, which was already thin because of injuries and roster moves at the safety position.
Now, the Browns will rely on a nine-year veteran, Jason McCourty, to play opposite Jamar Taylor with Briean Boddy-Calhoun as the team’s third cornerback.
Although McCourty registered 505 total tackles, including 418 solo stops, 87 assists and one sack, along with 13 interceptions, 73 pass breakups and seven forced fumbles, he was expected to switch to safety in 2017 because of his age.
MORALE IN THE LOCKER ROOM
To his teammates, Haden was the kind of player who gets the job done on the field because of how he handles himself in the week leading up to games, which set an important example to the younger athletes in the locker room.
“First off, Joe is a tremendous player,” Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey said Tuesday. “He has been to multiple Pro Bowls, but most of all, he is a great person, a great friend. I would love for him to be a teammate of mine, but those are things that are way above my head. I don’t really know what to say about all of that, but Joe has definitely been a great person for us and a great player for us.”
Despite undergoing double groin surgeries during the offseason, Haden was ready to go for training camp, and in the opinion of those who shared the field with him, he was back to the Pro Bowl level.
“He is still out here making plays,” Kirksey said. “I think this is one of his best camps, this year. He has been hurt in past years, but he has definitely come out here and competed. He is a leader on this defense, and he has been a leader to these young guys, so Joe has done everything great for us, and I just hope that he is still with us.”