The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, who had gone from being one of the city’s most popular players to polarizing, was released Wednesday after the team couldn’t trade him or persuade him to take a pay cut.
“We want to thank Joe for all he has done for this organization both on and off the field,” said Sashi Brown, executive vice president of football operations. “He has been a great teammate and a true asset to the Cleveland community. These are very difficult decisions, we have the utmost respect for Joe and in my eyes, he will always be a Cleveland Brown.”
A first-round pick in 2010, Haden has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons and the Browns felt he was no longer one of their top defensive backs.
Cleveland, which is in need of a wide receiver, had shopped Haden but couldn’t find a partner, mostly because he’ll make $11.1 million this season and has two more seasons left on a five-year, $67.5 million extension — $45 million guaranteed — he signed in 2014.
Despite Haden’s slip in production, coach Hue Jackson said Tuesday that he felt Haden had played well this summer.
Not well enough to keep him around, however.
“Joe gave everything he had for the Cleveland Browns and that’s all you can ask for as a coach,” Jackson said in a statement. “He was a leader on and off the field. I wish him all the best as he continues his career.”
Haden played in just 18 games — he missed 11 in 2015 with a concussion — the past two seasons because of injuries, fighting to stay on the field each week last season despite a serious groin injury that required offseason surgery.
New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his staff didn’t view Haden as an asset and will likely move veteran Jason McCourty into his starting spot alongside Jamar Taylor.
A former Florida standout, Haden was one of Cleveland’s most visible players. He often attended Cavaliers games and sat courtside to cheer on LeBron James and his teammates. Haden owned a sneaker store in downtown Cleveland, hosted youth camps in Northeast Ohio and in 2015 became the first professional football player to serve as a Special Olympics global ambassador.
Haden posted a thank-you to Cleveland fans on his Instagram account.
“I would first like to take the time to thank the Browns fans all around the world from the bottom of my heart for making Cleveland a happy home for me for the past 7 years,” Haden wrote. “I also want to thank the coaches, the organization and especially my teammates who have become family. My God doesn’t make mistakes and I know the future is bright.”
Haden appeared in 90 games for the Browns, starting 81. He compiled 376 tackles, 101 passes defended, 19 interceptions, forced four fumbles and four recovered fumbles. Last season, he recorded 48 tackles, 11 passes defended and tied for a team-high three interceptions.
(AP Photo/David Richard, File)
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