Here’s what we know: The Cleveland Browns released Joe Haden, still a very good corner, earlier this morning. Because he is a veteran, Haden is not subject to waivers and will be free to sign at 3 p.m. today.
That led to ESPN’s Adam Schefter to report that the Chiefs, along with the Saints, are two teams that have shown the most interest in Haden, which led to a lot of Chiefs fans dreaming about a Marcus Peters-Joe Haden tandem that would sure be a lot of fun.
So let’s break down how logical this possibility is.
Haden, 28, has made two Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team. He last made the Pro Bowl in 2013. Last season, he played in 13 games and recorded 48 tackles with 11 pass deflections and three interceptions, so yes, he can still play (though he was a 4.57 guy six years ago and is almost assuredly slower than that now), and yes, he’d be a fit. But does it make sense financially? That’s a little murkier.
The Chiefs have about $8.8 million in cap room, which is enough to sign Joe Haden … IF he wants to play for a winner desperately enough, and other winners don’t offer him something closer to the $11.1 million he was supposed to earn this year with Cleveland. To be clear, Haden won’t get that kind of money guaranteed anywhere, but it’s likely someone can or will offer him a deal with a $6 or $7 million base salary, plus not-likely-to-be-earned incentives that get him closer to that number.
In short, other teams will have more to offer Haden, and most importantly, other GOOD teams will have more to offer him, too. Multiple national reporters have noted that the Pittsburgh Steelers have emerged as the frontrunner to land his services, and that makes sense. The Steelers, by the way, have $10.2 million in cap space, which is enough to swing a deal like the one I outlined above.
Basically that it’s unlikely Haden winds up a Chief (sorry guys!). The offset will not save the Chiefs. According to cap expert Joel Corry, the offset only means that if a team signs Haden for $7 million, that team will have to pay the Browns $4 million, which ultimately will go to Haden. That’s it. He will not make $4 million on top of what another team pays him —the offset is only in place to help the Browns recoup money for cutting him.
Now, Corry said the Chiefs could make a competitive offer by structuring Haden a deal with voidable years. For instance, they could give him a three-year deal with a $1 million base salary and a $6 million signing bonus, and make 2018 and 2019 voidable years. This would give Haden a $5.5 million cap hit this year, but cost them a $4 million cap hit next year —when they are already scheduled to be over the projected cap.
But would the Chiefs be interested in doing that? Probably not.
“The Chiefs are pretty well-mortgaged for next year compared to other teams,” Corry said.
Which is why Joe Haden probably won’t land in Kansas City. But hey, it was fun while it lasted.