You might want to sit down for this, because if you’re standing your arm might be further away from your face, increasing the velocity of a facepalm, but according to Jeremy Fowler, the Pittsburgh Steelers at the moment have no intention of releasing cornerback Joe Haden, whom they acquired last season as a street free agent in August on a three-year, $27 million deal.
Shocking, I know, right? What could they be thinking? But Fowler has previously seemed to indicate that he felt the Steelers might be evaluating the pros and cons of his contract in the recent past, so he felt this was worth relaying.
One small bit of information that perhaps might be notable is that he said that it’s “not the expectation right now” that the Steelers will approach Haden about reworking his contract, which has two years and $20 million remaining on it. A previous report from Jason La Canfora, which was not widely accepted anyway, hinted at the possibility of that course of action.
As Fowler notes, with very little in the way of guarantees on his contract, which included a low year-one cap hit, the Steelers put themselves in a position of fairly easily walking away from the deal with Haden that they signed last year.
The former Pro Bowl cornerback has base salaries of $9 million in each of the next two seasons, plus $1 million roster bonuses, bringing the total to $10 million per year over the final two years. The dead money would be quite limited if he were to be released in comparison, under $4 million as a pre-June cut and under $2 million post-June, reaping a 2018 savings of over $8 million in cap space (or $10 million post-June).
But the Steelers have no compelling on-field reason to want to part with him, for sure. In spite of the fact that he basically did not have an offseason with the team, Haden made a near-seamless transition into the team’s secondary and was arguably the best player in the group, though most will likely give Mike Hilton that honor.
The question that exists perhaps is his durability, which had been at issue for his last few years in Cleveland, but he seemed to turn that around with a studious approach to his training that he implemented last year.
That did not allow him to escape a freak injury midseason when he suffered a fractured fibula that caused him to miss the next five games, however, but he returned from that to play in the final three games.
Without Haden, the Steelers would likely be looking at starting Cameron Sutton at cornerback across from Artie Burns, their former first-round draft pick going into his third season.