Would the Pittsburgh Steelers really cut veteran cornerback Joe Haden prior to the start of the 2019 regular season? I certainly don’t think so but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk thinks such a transaction could ultimately happen.
During the Wednesday morning episode of ‘PFT Live’, Florio and co-host Chris Simms attempted to predict several veteran players around the NFL who might be released before the season starts and Haden was named by the former.
“Speaking of a team that could use saving some dollars and has more cap issues than you would think they would, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a name that has been hovering around, and you never know when this is going to happen, it happened to Joe Haden in Cleveland late in the offseason a few years ago before he signed with the Steelers, and I think Joe Haden is a real possibility at some point,” Florio suggested.
As for Florio’s reason for thinking that Haden might eventually be purged by the Steelers later this offseason, he suggested that a strong summer showing by rookie cornerback Justin Layne, the team’s second of two third-round draft picks this year, would be enough to warrant the Steelers going to Haden and telling him he would be released if he doesn’t agree to a substantial pay cut.
“And maybe he says, yes [to a pay cut], because he doesn’t have a whole lot of other options,” Florio suggested of Haden. “I mean, teams do that all the time where they wait until the market has dried up, all the seats are taken with other depth charts. And what’s a guy gonna do, what’s he gonna say? You take the release at that point and you may not get anything close to what the team is offering on a reduced salary. So, Joe Haden is a guy I’m keeping an eye on. It will not surprise me if he is a quote-unquote surprise cut by the Steelers before week one.”
After Florio gave his reasoning for Haden possibly being cut if he doesn’t accept a pay cut from the Steelers, Simms agreed with him.
“Yeah, I hear you, he was certainly one of the guys on my radar for this discussion,” Simms told Florio. “Yeah, I mean, the best years of Joe Haden’s career are over. He certainly seems to like playing in Pittsburgh’s ever since he’s had the scenery change getting out of Cleveland and seems happy there. And seems to found a niche for himself to where, yeah, that could be one of those things where he might agree to take a little less money to stay on a team.”
Personally, I think Florio and Simms are ludicrous to suggest that Haden could be cut later in the offseason. For starters, no way in hell will Layne be able to pass Haden on the depth chart by the time the regular season rolls around. In fact, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has already gone on record since Layne was drafted to essentially say that the organization’s hope is that the raw Michigan State cornerback won’t have to play much, if any, on defense during his rookie season.
While Haden is indeed not the player he once was during his earlier playing days with the Cleveland Browns, he’s still the best cornerback the Steelers have on their roster right now and the best they’ve had on the outside since Ike Taylor, who averaged just over one interception a season during his 12 years in Pittsburgh. Sure, Haden is scheduled to earn $10 million in 2019, but that’s essentially a bargain when you consider that new Steelers cornerback Steven Nelson will pocket $9 million in 2019 after being signed to a three-year free agent contract earlier in the offseason. Also, Haden just turned 30 years of age in April. He still has a few more good seasons left in him if he can stay healthy.
It’s amazing how many NFL “analysts” have seemingly thought it would be a great idea to run Haden out of Pittsburgh this offseason. Have they even looked at the Steelers cornerback depth chart recently? Former first-round draft pick Artie Burns is now officially a bust and he might not even make the 53-man roster this year after the team rightfully chose not to pick up his fifth-year option several weeks ago.
Behind Burns sits two former Steelers draft picks that have barely seen the field any on defense in Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen. Sure, the Steelers still have Mike Hilton, but he’s merely a slot cornerback. As previously mentioned, the rookie Layne will likely only see playing time on defense during his first NFL season due to injuries. Behind those cornerbacks sit a few undrafted free agents.
If the Steelers do anything at all with Haden between now and the start of the 2019 regular season it will likely include them signing him to a contract extension, not cutting him or reducing his pay. Signing Haden to a two-year contract extension later this summer could even result in a small drop in his currently scheduled 2019 salary cap charge of $11,916,668. In summation, Haden’s not getting cut this offseason and it was foolish for Florio and Simms to even suggest such a transaction could be on tap.