The Cleveland Browns made the smart decision when they drafted Joe Haden in the first round way back in 2010. He was easily the best defensive player that they had drafted in a long time. Their decision to release him last year would appear to have been a mistake, given what he has gone on to do with the Pittsburgh Steelers since then.
While Haden would go on to sign a three-year contract with the Steelers by the end of the day that he was released by the Browns, there was a very real possibility in his mind that he was actually quite close to retirement.
As he told the Associated Press, “when I first got into the league I was thinking I’d play 15 years”. But after multiple seasons of injuries and then a sudden release, the article reads, he “was willing to settle for just one more to prove something to Cleveland”, and to himself as well.
If you will recall, while the Steelers did sign Haden to a three-year contract worth $27 million—and average of $9 million per season—the contract was structured in such a way that would enable them to turn it into just a one-year deal with minimal dead money.
Less than $6 million of his $27 million contract was in the form of a signing bonus, the only guaranteed money in the deal, so if Haden had really continued to struggle on the field and with chronic injuries (rather than a freak broken bone, that is), they would have been capable of relieving themselves of his contract—due $10 million in each of the final two years—while only incurring less than $4 million in total in dead money.
This is a long way of saying that both parties knew that the deal they had signed could possibly have been just a one-year arrangement. But neither side is interested in cutting their partnership short anytime soon, with Haden believing that he is playing as well as ever and understanding the game better than ever before.
The Steelers are more dependent upon him than ever before with Artie Burns struggling on the other side of the field. He has been rotating with Coty Sensabaugh at the right cornerback position for the past four games, an arrangement that is expected to continue until somebody actually shows some consistent, or at least error-free, play.
To that end, the coaching staff has allowed Haden to shadow wide receivers over the course of the past two weeks to varying degrees over the length of the game. He did so with effectiveness against Julio Jones in Week Five and then again facing the familiar A.J. Green in Week Six.
Now facing his old Browns team again, no receiver that will be suiting up is one that he was ever a teammate with. Their most notable player is Jarvis Landry, who lines up primarily in the slot. Will he do any shadowing this week? I would guess not, given the work Mike Hilton did in the opener.