Crazy Browns cut cornerback Haden, but arch-rival Steelers are quick to pick him up ... Elliott appeal will continue into Thursday ... Texans-Cowboys pre-season game called off
And here we thought the Cleveland Browns finally were going back to trying to win football games in 2017. Ha.
On Wednesday the Browns cut arguably their best veteran defender, cornerback Joe Haden, after failing to convince him to renegotiate his contract, then after failing to find a trade partner for him.
The Browns also traded offensive lineman Cameron
Erving to Kansas City for a 2018 fifth-round draft pick.
With uncloaked glee in their Erving-trade news release, the Browns bragged that — in addition to their own picks in Rounds 1-7 — the franchise now has collected for the 2018 draft, via various trades, Houston’s first-round pick, Philadelphia’s second-rounder, Houston’s second-rounder, Carolina’s fourth-rounder, Kansas City’s fifth-rounder (conditional) and Pittsburgh’s sixth-rounder. Well whoopdee’ frickindoo. Within hours of being dumped, Haden reportedly agreed to terms with the Browns’ divisional archrivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a franchise in desperate need of a top-flight veteran corner, and a franchise that knows and appreciates the value of a top-flight veteran corner.
Haden, 28, is in his eighth NFL season — the prime of his career by normal cornerback standards. He had been one of the Browns’ few first-round selections this decade who panned out, named to back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2013-14, before playing only five games in 2015 after suffering two concussions in short order.
Granted, Haden had a lousy 2016 season, according to the analytics crowd. ProFootballFocus.com rated him sixth among 10 big-name players who failed to perform in 2016.
Then again, the Browns defence last year was a tire fire, ranking 30th in sacks, 30th in forced fumbles and 30th in total yards allowed. No defender can grade well amid those flames.
What’s more, it’s not as though the Browns are cap-crunched. According to the website Over The Cap. com, after cutting Haden the Browns had the second most available salary-cap room in the NFL, a whopping $56 million. So why the rush to dump Haden, by all reports a loyal Brown with a strong leadership presence.
What’s more, Haden couldn’t have regressed much in 2016 for the Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints all crawling over one another Wednesday afternoon to sign him.
ESPN and NFL Network both reported before dinner hour that the Fort Washington, Md., native had agreed to terms already with the Steelers, for $27 million over three years, and $7 million of his first-year salary guaranteed.
Ham-and-egger cornerbacks can’t command such terms.
Haden had been contracted to earn $32.6 million over the next three years in Cleveland, an amount considerably more than what the Steelers will pay him in the same window. So, apparently, Haden really had been overpriced in today’s market in Cleveland.
But so what. Every NFL team that wants to win overpays a handful of key veterans. Every. Single. Team. Ask the Detroit Lions, who on Monday night signed
Matthew Stafford — who’s maybe a top 10 NFL QB but definitely not a top 5er — the richest contract in league history: $135 million over five years.
Overpaying the right veterans in the NFL is the price of contending, the price of victory.
When the Browns signed a couple of solid offensive- linemen free agents in March, then whittled down their mountain of collected draft picks in April to select not just three stud players in the first round but quarterback DeShone Kizer (earlier this week named the Week 1 starter) in the second, it seemed the club finally was telling the world, and its fans, that it was ready to fight. Ready to start trying to win — today.
Wednesday’s transactions mock such a conclusion.
Alas, the current incarnation of Browns leadership — meddlesome owner Jimmy
Haslam, GM and executive VP of football operations
Sashi Brown, chief strat- egy officer Paul DePodesta, VP of player personnel
Andrew Berry and secondyear head coach Hue Jackson — still places more value on tomorrow than today.
How many more years will it take next year’s beloved haul of draft picks to become impactful players? It’s like the front office wants to keep coasting in neutral, shouting, “You can’t judge us yet! You can’t judge us yet!”
At some point, though, you have to gear up and floor it. At some point you have to keep as many of your good players as you can and try to win.
At some point you have to jump on the diving board.
But no. These Browns prefer to stand there, knees shaking, waiting until the pool heats up to 97 and only 97 degrees, until all the other kids clear out of the way, until mom and dad turn their heads, until Nana or Poppee dangles a trip to ToysR-Us, and until everything else feels juuuust right.
Just dive in already.
ELLIOTT APPEAL UPDATE
NFL Network reported early Wednesday evening that, after a second marathon session in as many days, the appeal hearing at which Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is fighting his six-game suspension without pay will continue on Thursday.
All parties made the right choice Wednesday in cancelling Thursday night’s pre-season game between the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys. On Monday the meaningless tilt had been relocated from flood-ravaged Houston to Dallas. But Texans players, who had been in New Orleans (for Saturday’s preseason game) or Dallas since Friday, needed to get home to the Houston area, to be with their families as they deal with this epic natural disaster.
Now there’s talk that maybe the Texans’ first regular-season game on Sunday, Sept. 10 — at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars — should be relocated to Jacksonville, and the Dec. 17 rematch switched to Houston. Jags owner Shad Khan reportedly would support the swap.
J.J. Watt’s flood-relief drive surpassed $6 million on Wednesday, so he bumped his goal to $10 million. The star Houston Texans D-lineman said the first 18-wheeler full of food, water and other supplies will be delivered to needy Houstonians on Sunday … The NFL reduced the fivegame suspension of Cincinnati’s serial dirty-hitter Vontaze Burfict to three games ... Now we know why Bill Belichick is so cranky. He says he watches every NFL preseason game … Tony Romo says he considered joining the New York Jets. But retirement was more alluring … Oakland extended the contract of WR
Seth Roberts by two years … Tampa Bay added a year to backup QB Ryan Griffin’s contract … The late Cookie
Gilchrist, the star Buffalo Bills RB in the early 1960s, is finally being added to the club’s Wall of Fame … Kicker David
Akers is joining the Philadelphia Eagles’ Hall of Fame.
After being cut by the Browns yesterday, cornerback Joe Haden will start fresh playing for the Steelers and a new three-year contract worth $27 million.