Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden is a very rich man. Let me clarify, Haden will continue to be a very rich man. On Tuesday, ESPN.com reported that Haden signed a five-year, $68 million extension with $45 million guaranteed.
The deal, which Haden revealed the terms of on his Twitter account, makes him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL and trumps the deal Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman received last week. Ah, to be young and athletic.
It is not often that a team hands out $45 million in guaranteed money and it is considered a great deal, but this is one of those cases. Haden has become a cornerstone of the Cleveland Browns defense and went to his first Pro Bowl last season. It would probably would have been his second Pro Bowl, but he was suspended for four games the prior season for testing positive for Adderall.
Since that time, not only had Haden matured on the field but also off of it. He has removed some of the people from his life who were constantly around and even got married last offseason.
"I think it's mostly, honestly, the way I'm living," Haden told the Associated Press (via FoxNews.com) in November of last year. "Just me and my wife, I have a really good relationship with her. We're doing super well just relaxing all the time. I've been studying the Bible a whole lot more and I'm just really comfortable with myself and how my life is going, and honestly that's what really got me here.
"It's just football now, all football."
Long gone are the days of partying until 4 a.m. in Cleveland’s biggest party district, W. 6th St. Now Haden can be seen with his wife out to dinner or driving his orange Lamborghini around town but rarely ever around the club.
He will also be asked to become more of a leader on defense. He was an emerging voice in the locker room last season but often deferred to linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and safety T.J. Ward. Neither of those guys are in Cleveland anymore.
The obvious selling point for the Browns was Haden’s production. He has 13 interceptions in his four years of NFL time and 67 passes defended. He had a career-high 20 passes defended last season and dominated Cincinnati’s A.J. Green in both of their 2013 meetings.
Green had just nine catches for 58 yards and zero touchdowns. That is a terrible season series for one of the best receivers in the game.
More than the numbers, however, Haden has become a Clevelander. He regularly attends Cavaliers and Indians games and has been known to dress up like center Anderson Varejao or former reliever Tony Sipp. He supports local charities and can be seen at just about every big local function.
Cleveland fans adore him for embracing a city that has often been shunned by their elite talent. LeBron James refused to do local media and never accepted any local awards in person. Haden can be heard on every station in town and never misses an award ceremony.
@joehaden23 glad to know we will have a talent and a role model like you for years to come in cleveland.— Aaron Elezar Cole (@ColeTheConquero) May 13, 2014
It also shows a commitment from the Browns organization. The team has now handed huge contracts to Joe Thomas, Alex Mack and Joe Haden. In a city where the Indians are skewered for being frugal and the Cavs for handing out money frivolously, these are rare occasions of quality spending.
So as much as this extension gives Browns fans a reason to rejoice in the wake of the Josh Gordon suspension reports, it also gives them a reason to celebrate one of their own.
He may not be native to Cleveland, but he gets what it means to live in Northeast Ohio, and that is all that matters to the brown and orange diehards.