Joe Haden Cut by Browns Despite Trade Rumors

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 18: Joe Haden #23 of the Cleveland Browns reacts after being called for interference against the Baltimore Ravens during the game at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Ravens defeated the Browns 25-20. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Joe Haden was once renowned as one of the NFL's rising stars at cornerback, but the Cleveland Browns released the 28-year-old Wednesday.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport was the first to report the surprising move, and Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal confirmed it.

The Browns later made Haden's release official and issued statements from head coach Hue Jackson and executive vice president Sashi Brown:

Cleveland Browns @Browns

Statements from Hue Jackson and Sashi Brown: https://t.co/flTTrC1bE4

Haden also thanked the Browns on Instagram:

CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora first reported Tuesday that the Browns were "aggressively trying to trade" Haden. Following the release, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs are "expected to have strong interest" in signing Haden. Meanwhile, ESPN's Josina Anderson reported the Dallas Cowboys might have interest depending on how much money Haden is seeking. 

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

Joe Haden is getting $4M guaranteed from #Browns — with offsets. If he settles in at less than $4M, new team pays him minimum, CLE pays rest

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

What does that mean? Suddenly, Joe Haden could play for any championship-level team for a bargain while still making his $4M from #Browns

Haden previously served as a centerpiece of Cleveland's defense thanks to his shutdown capabilities on the outside, but his level of play has gradually declined over the past couple of seasons due to a slew of injuries. 

The 2015 campaign saw Haden battle the effects of a concussion for several weeks, and his season ended when the Browns placed him on injured reserve. Haden graded out as one of the worst corners in football when he was healthy during five 2015 appearances. 

"He allowed a near-perfect 158.2 passer rating into his coverage last season, surrendering an average of 4.8 receptions, 77.4 yards and 0.8 touchdowns per game in his five outings," Pro Football Focus' Eric Eager wrote at the time. "He missed more tackles [five] in 290 snaps last season than he did in 1,044 snaps in 2014."

Haden later underwent offseason ankle surgery before dealing with a nagging groin injury throughout the first couple of months of the 2016 season.

He made 13 appearances in 2016; however, he wasn't effective when he lined up along the boundary. According to Pro Football Focus' Matt Claassen, Haden "earned a below-average coverage grade for a second straight year and had a career-high 10 missed tackles."

By cutting Haden, the Browns will clear $6.7 million in salary-cap space, per Spotrac.

Haden's contract played a role in Cleveland's inability to trade him, but he is now a worthwhile gamble for a team in need of cornerback help despite his recent struggles.

The former first-round pick was a Pro Bowler in 2013 and 2014, and that alone should earn him some looks in free agency with the regular season approaching.