Two Years On, Joe Haden Still Proving Skeptics Wrong

Many people, perhaps even most people, were against the idea of the Pittsburgh Steelers signing or otherwise acquiring Joe Haden at the time that reports surface that the Cleveland Browns might part ways with the veteran cornerback. I was among them, and you can read what I wrote about it at the time here.

“Haden may have been very good in the first half of his career, but he has not been the same player in recent years, and injuries have had a lot to do with that”, I wrote just a little over two years ago. “It would be best to stay away from him, and I’m not sure there will be much of a market for him and his salary at all”.

We all get things wrong. I was clearly wrong about this. I was also wrong about T.J. Watt, at least with respect to his level of readiness to contribute early in his career. But many of us were so wrong about Haden that he’s laughing all the way to the bank over it.

He just signed his second contract with the Steelers since being released by the Browns. The first was a three-year deal worth $27 million. The contract that he signed technically tore up the final year of that contract, from which he received $17 million, with $10 million in base salary in 2019, but the new-money value of the two additions years comes in at a total of $22 million, or $11 million per season.

It also makes him, if he finishes out the deal, the second-highest paid cornerback in NFL history behind only Darrelle Revis, and then only slightly. He will be 32 when he completes his current contract, so it wouldn’t necessarily be shocking if he can play at least one more year after that as well, but that’s a question for 2022.

While it’s true that he hasn’t necessarily performed at a Pro Bowl level, Haden has clearly been the Steelers’ best defensive back since the moment he stepped on the field for the Steelers, and while he has dealt with injuries, they have not affected his performance when he has been available.

And in 2019, he should be the lead figure in the best secondary the Steelers have put out in a number of years, joining Steven Nelson, Terrell Edmunds, Sean Davis, Mike Hilton, Kameron Kelly, and Cameron Sutton, all of whom will presumably see some playing time.

And so as we sit here two years and three days from the anniversary of the Steelers’ original signing of Haden, it’s funny to look back at how much apprehension there was over the deal. While it was understood that he would be an improvement, many were pessimistic that he would be able to play as he has. And now he will have the opportunity to continue to do so into his 30s.

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