The Cleveland Browns announced on Wednesday morning the release of Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden. Throughout his seven-year career in Cleveland, he recorded an impressive 299 tackles, 100 pass deflections, 19 interceptions, and four forced fumbles, receiving two Pro Bowl berths in the process. He was also regularly a thorn in the side of the Cincinnati Bengals, against whom he regularly played very well, shutting down star wide receiver A.J. Green on more than one occasion.
Therefore, it is interesting to think about what happens after his release. Who will he sign with? Will another division rival pick him up, making him equally or more problematic for the team? Will he end up being the newest addition to a Super Bowl contender and finally get his shot at a Super Bowl ring? Will the Bengals consider picking him up to boost the talent in their defensive backfield? The idea is certainly fun to think about...
Why Haden to the Bengals could work
The prospect of Haden being available on the free agent market should be intriguing for Bengals fans. In addition to stealing him away from a division rival and ensuring he doesn’t go to a different division rival like the Steelers or Ravens, he could be a great addition to the Bengals’ cornerback corps. Granted, the position is already crowded, so bringing him on would be detrimental to the careers of the players he lands ahead of on the depth chart. But, you can’t deny his talent or the potential contribution he could bring to the team.
On the Bengals, Haden would almost certainly compete for the top starting job with Dre Kirkpatrick. Furthermore, it would be difficult, in the long run, to see him losing that battle. Not only would he be unable to terrorize Green as an opposing player, but he would regularly shut down Bengals’ opponents’ best receivers, freeing up more time for the Bengals’ young defensive line to pressure the passer. He would force throws to the middle of the field, which can be dangerous territory for any quarterback.
Why Haden to the Bengals doesn’t make sense
It is worth noting how unlikely a Bengals-Haden signing would be. The Bengals seem to like their current cornerback corps. They want to see what Darqueze Dennard does after picking up his fifth-year option, and would also like to see William Jackson III develop into a solid contributor. Dennard’s development would likely be sacrificed in Haden’s presence, while Jackson would certainly have his work cut out for him, particularly while Adam Jones is still around.
Also, Haden is going to choose his next team, and why would he choose the Bengals considering all the competition at the position?
Cincinnati doesn’t seem like an ideal place for Haden. There is a solid chance he would perform well enough to earn a starting spot with the team right away. But, he would certainly have plenty of competition. The Bengals would not be able to guarantee him a starting spot and are unlikely to pay him enough to look past that condition. At the very least, convincing Haden to come to Cincinnati would be a very difficult sale.
There’s also the question of his salary. Signing Haden would require using up tons of the Bengals’ available post-cuts cap space. And many teams are interested in Haden, including the Steelers, who will be willing to pay him what it takes to lure him to their cities. This seems like an unnecessarily large commitment to a player, at a position the Bengals already seem comfortable at and have tons of money committed to. The secondary accounts for $35,883,960 already this season alone.
Therefore, there is no reason to think the Bengals would actually sign Haden. There are too many confounding factors and a more established team, or a team willing to pay more, could take advantage of in negotiations to lure him away. The Bengals simply don’t have the funds or the clout to land a player who is sure to be sought after so highly. That said, if everything could fall into place, Haden’s presence on the Bengals would undoubtedly be a huge boost to the Bengals’ defensive backfield. Hopefully, his departure from the Browns means he leaves the division and will no longer terrorize the Bengals’ receiving corps on a regular basis. But, the Steelers are looking like a likely landing spot...
Haden can make his choice after 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday.