“OMG, (Fill in the blank) has been released. The Bucs should sign him immediately!” How often do we hear and see that EVERY TIME a player is released around the league? I see it constantly. And as soon as former Browns cornerback Joe Haden was released this week, it was more of the same. However, this one is a bit intriguing to me. After seeing Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith struggle against the Browns on Friday, the need to add experienced depth at the corner position became painfully clear. So, I’ve decided to break down the pros and cons of this signing to try and determine if this is even a feasible option for the Buccaneers.
The Browns were apparently shopping Haden for a trade, but the team made the call to simply release him. Money may have been part of the issue even though they had plenty of cap space. Haden was the 7th highest paid corner in the league with a 2017 salary of $11 million, in which $4 million of it is guaranteed. That must have been too much for the Browns to pay considering his play as of late. He hasn’t played a full season since his 2010 rookie year and he’s missed 22 games in 6 seasons. After a breakout rookie campaign where he had 65 tackles, 6 interceptions, 18 passes defensed and a sack, he’s only had 13 picks in the last 6 seasons. His 2015 season was the worst of his career. He missed 10 games due to a concussion and only totaled 22 tackles in the 5 games that he did play. In 2016, he started the season ranked 76th out of 87 cornerbacks (according to FootballOutsiders.com) and missed 3 games with a nagging groin injury that finally required surgery in January. In the 13 games he did play, he gave up six touchdowns while totaling 48 tackles, 3 interceptions and 11 passes defensed. He finished the season ranked 88th out of 110 cornerbacks (according to ProFootballFocus.com).
With that said, the Bucs could be in a good position to possibly sign him. They have the cap space. They have the leverage. They have the need. With his injury history and lack of production as of late, he will not be getting a contract anywhere near what the Browns were paying him. He’s already getting $4 million from Cleveland for this season, so if the Bucs could sign him to a one year “prove it” type deal for about $4-5 million then it could be worth a shot. He would give them an experienced veteran to play the third cornerback or possibly even opposite Brent Grimes while sliding Vernon Hargreaves over to nickel. Either way, it adds much-needed depth across the board at corner.
His former teammates say that he’s still a “really good player”. They say that he’s a hard worker and was a veteran leader on the team. At 28 years-old, he still has plenty of years left in his career. But there are still question marks surrounding him. Is he even willing to play for less money at this point? Is he still the same player? Is he an “injury prone” player? I’m sure we’ll find out the answers to all these questions soon enough. There’s already supposedly heavy interest from the Steelers, Chiefs, Colts and Saints for his services so I don’t anticipate him being a free agent for very long.
I don’t know if the Bucs are even considering this scenario. They have a decent CB group as is, but it could be better. It could be much better if they can get the old Joe Haden. The Joe Haden that made the Pro Bowl in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The Joe Haden that quarterbacks used to be afraid to throw at. The Joe Haden that used to shut down opposing team’s #1 receiver. The Joe Haden selected 7th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. If the Bucs could add a healthy Haden alongside Grimes and Hargreaves, then it could take this defense to the next level. Even if he is injury prone and on the decline, he still adds some experienced depth and leadership to a cornerback group that severely lacks both. We’ll know in the next few days if it’s going to happen at all. Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!