AROUND THENFL

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

The Province - - SPORTS / FOOTBALL - John Kryk keeps you up­dated on the NFL

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.

GAME CAN­CELLED

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.

EX­TRA POINTS

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.

GETTY IMAGES

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.

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