Posted on August 30, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Joe Haden

Image via clevelandbrowns.com

The Cleveland Browns are trying to move in a new direction this season. That new direction will not include longtime cornerback Joe Haden. The Browns announced Wednesday morning that they have released the two-time Pro Bowler who has anchored their defense for the better half of a decade. On Tuesday, reports surfaced that the Browns were making an effort to trade Haden. When those efforts proved unsuccessful, the Browns decided to release Haden.

“We want to thank Joe for all he has done for this organization both on and off the field,” Browns Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown said in a statement. “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.”

The Browns drafted Haden 7th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. By the end of his rookie season, Haden had moved into the starting lineup, where he’s remained ever since. During his seven seasons in Cleveland, Haden has compiled 19 interceptions, four forced fumbles, and one defensive touchdown. For years, he was one of the few bright spots on a team that has struggled to win games during Haden’s tenure.

“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.”

Haden’s release comes on the heels of a couple of injury-plagued seasons. A concussion and finger injury forced him to miss 11 games during the 2015 season. Last year, Haden did his best to play through groin issues that caused him to miss three games and undergo surgery after the season. Clearly, the Browns don’t believe Haden is performing at the same level he was when he was a Pro Bowler in 2013 and 2014.

Haden being released comes midway through a six-year, $74 million deal he signed in May 2014. That contract included $45 million in guaranteed money. He was set to make $11.1 million in each of the next two seasons and $10.4 million in 2019 before becoming a free agent. The Browns will take a $3.2 million hit on the salary cap both this season and next season. However, they will be saving more than $26 million on Haden’s remaining contract by releasing him now.

Releasing Haden will allow the Browns to give more playing time to many of their younger players. Briean Boddy-Calhoun has emerged as a potential replacement for Haden in the starting lineup. The Browns also have veteran Jason McCourty as an option at cornerback. The presence of rookie Jabrill Peppers also adds some excitement to Cleveland’s secondary this season.

As for Haden, he will not be subject to the NFL’s waiver process. As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Haden will be a free agent who’s able to sign with any team. At age 28, it’s not hard to envision Haden having plenty left in the tank. However, his injury issues the past couple of years could be a concern for some team.

According to initial reports, Haden is expected to draw plenty of interest around the league. The Chiefs and Saints are reportedly expressing the most interest in him. After being released by the Browns Wednesday morning, Haden may have another job by the weekend.

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