The Browns were rumored to be shopping a few players this and today they cut ties with cornerback Joe Haden when they found no takers. Haden had one of the more player friendly contracts in the NFL and arguably one of the best contracts among cornerbacks even if not the highest. The Browns really pushed the bar with him on guarantees and structure despite the fact that he really was a notch below the top players when he signed a $67.5 million extension in 2014.
Cutting Haden leaves the Browns with $7.3 million in dead money this year and another $3.6 million in 2018. $4 million of his salary is guaranteed and will be paid by the Browns unless he signs with another team, which should happen pretty quickly. Whatever he signs for with another team will offset the Browns obligation to him and the Browns will receive a salary cap credit next year.
The closest comparable situation I can come to a player like him being cut late was when the Chiefs released Brandon Flowers a few years ago in June. Flowers ended up signing for $3 million with the Chargers in an effort to revive his career and he was successful, later signing a new contract worth over $9 million a season.
Because Haden is already owed $4 million by the Browns the most likely contract will be one that pays him the minimum, which I believe is $900,000. Anything more than that but under $4 million simply helps the Browns and would make no sense for a team to do. Given Haden’s play it is unlikely a team would pay him much more than $4 million anyway especially this late in the year when many teams are tight on cap room.
This low salary should give him the ability to pick and choose from good teams with Super Bowl aspirations where he can potentially stand out. It is possible he could do a longer term deal in which the main payments occur after this season. The teams that I think financially make a lot of sense would be the Cowboys and Saints as both would probably be very open to something longer term if he does well.
As for the Browns we all knew that this would be an unconventional front office and their handling of this situation fits right in with that. I have to think that the Browns knew for some time that Haden would not be in their plans this season. They also should have known that no team in the NFL was going to trade for him at a salary of $11.1 million. Had they cut him in February they would have saved themselves $4 million. I guess you can make an argument that a team could have renegotiated the deal if they really wanted him though Id say that was unlikely as well.
Even more than that, though, they opened themselves up to a major risk by putting a player on the field and in camp with $7 million in additional non-guaranteed salary. Had Haden been injured and landed on IR the Browns would have owed him the full $11.1 million. Finding a trade partner on August 30, when 2/3 of the NFL doesn’t have the cap room to absorb that salary and has the knowledge that if the Browns cut him loose they can sign him for cheap, was always going to be impossible. To open yourself up to that kind of risk for almost no reward is pretty pointless.
It will be interesting to see what they do moving forward with Brock Osweiler who they traded for this offseason. Essentially the trade of Osweiler was the Browns paying $16 million for the right to buy a 2nd round draft pick. I believe the feeling was they thought they could eat some of that salary and trade him for another pick but that doesn’t look like it will happen. Unlike with Haden, however, there was no risk in playing him since his entire salary was guaranteed.
Updated Edit- As things turned out Haden lasted all of a few hours as a free agent and signed a 3 year contract with the Steelers that reportedly pays him $7 million this year. To say Im shocked by that turn of events is quite the understatement. The $9M average is in line with things, but to go over $4 million this year is something. His agent did quite the job IMO on this one.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.