The Pittsburgh Steelers made the decision last year to move on from former Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden. After five years with the team over two contracts, and at age 33, it was over for him. Not by his choice, at least not entirely. As he said on a Tuesday edition of the I Am Athlete podcast, it just wasn’t there.
“Honestly, I didn’t know”, he said when LeSean McCoy asked him when he knew it was time to retire. “I was training this whole offseason. I didn’t plan on retiring this year. I wanted to do at least one more season, but the money wasn’t right. It wasn’t worth it. They were offering me $1.5-2 million”.
$2 million is obviously a very substantial pay cut for a player of Haden’s status. The cheapest deal he ever signed in his career was the initial three-year, $27 million contract that brought him to Pittsburgh. The last deal he played on paid him $11 million per season for two years.
Haden added that he had offers from something like eight different organizations, but all of them wanted to sign him for essentially the veteran minimum. Having made well north of $100 million over the course of his career, he understood that it didn’t make sense at that point in his life to uproot and move his family for one more season of football.
He did say that he felt his market was about $5 million or so, what he was realistically anticipating. I don’t think that’s a too unreasonable expectation given the level of performance he displayed in his final seasons. But it’s hard for teams to offer much to a 33-year-old cornerback who isn’t in his prime.
A former seventh-overall draft pick of the Cleveland Browns back in 2010, Haden was often the lone bright spot on a bad defense, making the Pro Bowl a couple of times while there. Chronic injury concerns threatened his career and contributed to his August 2017 release, which quickly led to his second chapter with the Steelers.
Of course, the Steelers weren’t paying any of their cornerbacks on last year’s roster more than $4.5 million. Cameron Sutton was operating on a two-year, $9 million contract, while Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon both played under two-year, $8 million contracts. William Jackson III’s contract is obviously not going to be honored.
It’s also worth considering, as he reminded, that he suffered three concussions during his career and underwent surgery twice, once on his ankle and once for a double sports hernia, over the course of his career. Having already made more than 50 times what teams were offering, would it really have been worth it?
For him, the answer was no, and so he retired, even though he had no desire nor intention to. Done? “Done done”, he said, when asked if he was never coming back for sure.