The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Joe Haden is also starting his last game at Heinz Field.
Explanation: While the expectation is that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will retire after this season, he won’t be the only Steeler parting company in 2022. Cornerback Joe Haden, who has been with the team for the past five seasons, will be an unrestricted free agent, and may not be in their plans going forward, or their price range.
The Steelers stepped outside of themselves with Haden’s last deal, making most of it guaranteed in the former of an upfront signing bonus. That’s easier to swing when it’s just a two-year extension, but it showed how important it was for them to get that deal done.
It’s not as though the situation is so much better now, but Haden also isn’t any younger. He hasn’t fallen off a cliff, but he’ll be 33 next season and he certainly isn’t gaining any steps. Cameron Sutton is still here to start another year, and he has done a fine job most of the time. Ahkello Witherspoon would be a much more affordable re-sign, and certainly much younger, with an opportunity to grow.
One thing we’ve seen over the past five years is that when Joe Haden isn’t playing, this secondary is a lot worse off. If Sutton is your top guy, you have a problem. Haden isn’t going to break the bank at 33 years old and coming off a fairly standard, unremarkable season that was sidetracked by a significant foot injury. He’ll hit the market, but he won’t hit $10 million per season.
A nice two-year deal, maybe with some void years like they did with Sutton last year, is probably in the best interests of both parties. It gives the Steelers time to prepare a replacement while still giving Haden the opportunity to start as his career winds down.
The fact is Haden wants to retire a Steeler. He only started talking about free agency after he realized he wasn’t going to get an extension done in camp. That was never realistic, but they’ll be in better position to do a deal in March.