And so it begins! The first move of the purging season by Sashi Brown and this new look Cleveland Browns front office. The 2016 season was just one of, “Let’s see what we’ve got here”, as far as head coach Hue Jackson and the front office were concerned, whereas now, going into the 2017 season, it’s time to stamp their mark on the franchise as they attempt to build the dynasty everyone craves.
For the 2017 season, the NFL has changed how things work as team reduce the number of players they have on their roster down to the final 53-players they’ll go into the season with. In the past teams have been allowed to start camp with 90-players, which was then reduced to 75 just before the final preseason game and then down to the final 53-man roster shortly after the final preseason game. This is no longer the case as all teams are allowed to roll through the whole of the preseason with the full complement of players before having to cut it straight down to the 53-man roster before the regular season starts. This should be another exciting time of the season for us fans but a nervous one for the players on the fringe of a roster spot.
Some teams have already cut some lesser-known players but, for me, the biggest name to be cut from any team so far is today’s announcement by the Cleveland Browns that they’ve released 2 time Pro Bowler, CB Joe Haden.
He is a fan favourite in Cleveland and has played for no other team in the NFL since they took him with the 7th overall selection in the 2010 NFL draft out of the University of Florida. His career started well and continued going well for a few seasons, seeing him voted to the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014. It seemed to be after that when things started to down downhill a little. He was placed on injured reserve in 2015 due to a concussion and has suffered from groin injuries for some time now. In 2016 he tried to play like the old Joe Haden but I doubt he ever really recovered fully and wouldn’t appear to have the confidence still in his body to play at the level we Browns fans used to love watching him play at. I remember watching him and thinking, “Wow, this guy’s all over the field cleaning up other players’ mistakes!”.
It’s been well publicised over the past couple of days that the Browns have been “Aggressively shopping Haden around”, to see if anyone wanted to do a trade and take on his contract. It’s this contract that has most likely been the sticking point in any potential trade as Haden was due to be paid around the $11 million mark this season which is a huge amount when you consider the return any team would have got for that. His level of play has been dropping off at quite a rate over the past couple of seasons and he definitely wasn’t the best cornerback on the Browns roster anymore.
This move took me by surprise when I first saw it as I was still holding out some hope that we might get something in return for him, but it wasn’t to be. Out of the three players the team was said to be shopping around: Haden, Cameron Erving and Brock Osweiler, I thought Haden was the one we might have got something in return for. I guess I was kidding myself that someone would take on his contract after he’s shown the level of play he has done so far this preseason – not very good, to be honest.
When a player gets released or traded from my favourite team, I ask myself if I’d be bothered if he went to a rival team and would be facing us in future seasons. I’ve done that with Haden and you know what, it doesn’t bother me at all considering what I’ve been seeing from him for a while now – probably the past couple of seasons I’d say.
The Browns analyst for ESPN Cleveland and apparent Cleveland Browns hater from what I’ve seen of him in the past (even the coaches know about him and have no time for his negative attitude as has been shown in press conferences in the past), Tony Grossi stated:
Joe Haden likely refused to restructure Browns contract. Knew that was his ticket out of town & on to playoff contender.
— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) 30 August 2017
But then again, he also said this so he obviously has no idea what he’s talking about and shows why people have no time for him:
Grossi on whether the Browns would consider cutting Haden if they can’t trade him: “Absolutely not.”
— ESPN Cleveland (@ESPNCleveland) 29 August 2017
Maybe there’s something in the comment that Haden wanted a way out of Cleveland in the hope that he can blag his way onto a playoff team using his past playing-level as some kind of persuader, but I’m not sure. I mean, I’m no expert NFL scout but even I can watch game film and see that he’s not performing like an NFL starter these days and has been getting gradually worse for a few seasons now. Having said that, I’m sure many teams will want him and he won’t be without an employer for long. Maybe he’ll be used situationally or moved to safety, but whatever happens, I wish him well and I look forward to the continuation of the evolution of the Cleveland Browns!
So, is this the right move by the Browns organisation? Yes, definitely! Like I’ve said a few times now, his play has been slipping for a few seasons now and his contract size has been increasing as veteran contracts do. His playing level absolutely did not deserve the contract he was going to make and so it was time to see if they could get anything for him. They couldn’t find a trade partner and so released him to make room financially and roster-wise for someone else to come in who is currently playing at a higher level, should they need to.
Teams need to have their rosters down to the 53-man size by this coming Saturday so we can expect to see lots more players released and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some pretty big veteran names amongst them and some trades being done.