The Browns made waves by suddenly cutting cornerback Joe Haden on Wednesday morning with just one week left in the preseason. The news comes just one day after it was reported that the Browns were aggressively shopping the veteran. Haden's dead cap hit is $7.3 million for the cut.
Any team that signs Haden won't be getting the Haden of old that made two Pro Bowls (2013, '14), and Haden won't be getting a massive contract. He'll likely have to come on as a stopgap or, at worst, a mentor role. Even though the Browns didn't do Haden any favors, he has a long way to go before he proves he's worth even mid-level cornerback money. The Browns will owe Haden $4 million in guaranteed money this year, so perhaps that will ease what he asks for, although with Drew Rosenhaus as his agent that seems unlikely. As it stands, Haden's market is surprisingly varied. With the preseason in full swing and the regular season just around the corner, there are a lot of teams that at least need help at cornerback. Haden is still capable of providing that help, just not as a marquee name.
Although Haden has fallen off in recent years, there are teams that could use the veteran presence at cornerback. With corners being such a premium position in the NFL, someone is bound to give him a shot. Here are 10 teams that would make sense as potential landing spots for Haden's fresh start.
This year's All-Injury team is filled with Ravens so far, so the Browns' divisional rivals should be pursuing whoever they can out of fear. The Ravens' current starters are Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith, and beyond those two they have only two corners on the roster. Carr is another underachieving veteran that the Ravens added from the Cowboys, so they'd have to be careful, but adding Haden could, if nothing else, make them feel slightly better about another player going down.
Pretty much any player that becomes available from here on out will have the Bills on their list. Buffalo and the new leadership piloted by general manager Brandon Beane have made it perfectly clear they're willing to part with Doug Whaley's former picks for upgrades at any position. With that in mind, the Bills have cleaned house since Beane took over. Stephon Gilmore is gone, and the Bills currently have rookie Tre'Davious White listed as a starter. Haden could provide some experience to the secondary alongside Shareece Wright. The lack of depth at the position is also a concern for Buffalo. Wright has already dealt with a few nagging injuries throughout camp, and after the Bills traded Ronald Darby, they don't have many players to fill in for White or Wright should they go down.
Why would the reigning NFC East champs add a corner that many think is over the hill? Because that's what they do. The Cowboys' secondary is incredibly young, and they play a cover 2 defense that isn't difficult to learn, but can be tricky to execute without experience. Chidobe Awuzie has been struggling with an injury that has hampered him, and Jourdan Lewis is a rookie who played best in the slot at the University of Michigan. Orlando Scandrick is almost starting outside by default, as the players behind him are inexperienced or camp bodies. Anthony Brown started out excellent in 2016 as a rookie before suffering some drop-off halfway through the year. Haden could complement the youth on the Cowboys' defense, and Dallas likes bringing in veterans to supplement their younger players while they continue to build through the draft.
After a down year from Vontae Davis, the Colts went out and drafted Quincy Wilson to boost their cornerback corps. For a team that's playing in the always wide-open AFC South, there's no such thing as a true rebuild year -- especially with Andrew Luck at the helm on offense. Haden could take some of the pressure off Wilson, who is playing alongside another rookie in Malik Hooker. A secondary that young is going to take licks, so if Haden can come in and help the transition it would do wonders for the Colts. This is contingent, of course, upon Davis bouncing back from a tough 2016 season. Haden should be coming in to help a team, not take over the reigns of a secondary. He's far past that at this point in his career.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs and the Saints were both linked to Haden, per Adam Schefter, and just one look at the Chiefs' roster shows why. Marcus Peters is the clear No. 1 corner on their roster, but after that it's a who's ... who? of cornerbacks. On top of that, Peters is the only corner with any experience playing on the right side of the field, where Haden has spent much of his career. If the Chiefs brought him in it would likely be for peace of mind, which might not interest Haden, but the Chiefs could really use some support at the position.
A few Dolphins players have already made pushes to recruit Haden to Miami, namely former Florida teammate Mike Pouncey and Ndamukong Suh. With the departure of Brent Grimes, there has become a strange cornerback void in Miami that has sucked in the likes of Alterraun Verner and Byron Maxwell. Xavien Howard is on the depth chart as well, a promising left-side corner. Haden could bring some semblance of experience to the position, as Verner and Maxwell have also struggled in recent years.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints' secondary is, to be frank, a mess. It has been since 2013. P.J. Williams and Ken Crawley are expected to get significant snaps, and Delvin Breaux's injury made their secondary even thinner. Marshon Lattimore will likely see more and more time as the season goes on, but the common denominator in the Saints' secondary is youth. Everyone is inexperienced outside of Sterling Moore, so a veteran presence is always welcome. The Saints made a few moves such as drafting Lattimore and Marcus Williams to improve the league's worst pass defense last year, but it's difficult to replace experience. Damian Swann and Williams have both had limited career snaps due to concussions, so depth also becomes an issue.
The Raiders have a big question mark at cornerback with David Amerson injured. Sean Smith can hold down the right side of the field just fine, but with Gareon Conley battling an injury himself they'll have to be careful. Conley just got off the PUP list, so Haden would make sense as a stopgap for Oakland. Outside of that, the Raiders don't have many options. Haden playing across from Smith makes some modicum of sense, especially with how good Smith was last year. If the Raiders could give Haden additional help, they could take some pressure off Conley and allow Amerson to come back 100 percent.
The Eagles just released two cornerbacks Wednesday, so they're either perfectly content with Jalen Mills and the newly acquired Ronald Darby or they're priming to make more moves. Patrick Robinson is currently behind Darby on the depth chart, and despite his struggles as a starting corner he has been around the block a few times. Otherwise, Rasul Douglas is Mills' backup, and Haden could actually challenge Mills for a position. Even though Darby is all but penciled in, the Eagles are a team that Haden could compete for a contributing role on.
The Steelers have emerged as early front-runners for the former division rival. Haden has been linked to the Steelers by Adam Schefter, and once his release is finalized at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, Pittsburgh is expected to make a push. In spite of a tight salary cap situation, the Steelers desperately need the help. They have a lot of camp bodies but few actual corners. Ross Cockrell and Artie Burns are the starters according to the Steelers' depth chart, while Coty Sensabaugh and the seemingly immortal William Gay are behind them. For the Steelers, the idea of reinvigorating a former rival's career is just a bonus -- they need cornerback help in a bad way -- so it makes sense they'd make a push for Haden.