In a somewhat surprising move this morning, the Cleveland Browns announced the release of former Pro-Bowl CB Joe Haden. The initial reaction of most Colts fans is to jump at the opportunity to bring him in. However, does signing Joe Haden really make sense for this team at this time?
The visceral, gut reaction is absolutely. The Colts recently announced starting CB Vontae Davis has a significant groin injury so there leaves a void at the spot. You’d think a veteran like Haden could step in and help immediately. The Colts do not seem to have a clear cut second CB so asking a rookie or a second-year guy with no experience to step in as the CB1 seems a bit much to ask.
Signing Haden may also help alleviate the depth problem at the CB position. It would allow the team to place Davis on IR, with the assumption he’ll return later in the season, and open a roster spot for a fringe guy at another position the team likes but may have had to cut otherwise.
The other positive aspect is Haden may be looking for a one year, prove-it style deal, something Ballard has been more than happy to give out. The Colts are one of the few teams with enough salary cap space to absorb a bigger salary without needing to perform salary cap magic. Other teams associated with Haden don’t have the same resources.
So the short answer is yes, he can help in the short term. However, making short term moves for short term gain hasn’t been Chris Ballard’s modus operandi in his short time as GM.
If you look at the raw metrics, Haden’s play has significantly regressed in the past two years. He’s not the Pro Bowl type player he once was. Opposing QBs simply aren’t scared of him anymore. Would he really be an upgrade over the current options? Probably, but it’s not a sure thing like it used to be.
One of the reasons Haden isn’t scary anymore is his recent run of injuries. As an injury risk, the Colts will likely think long and hard before making an offer.
If the team is happy with the depth at CB, they may choose to place Davis on IR anyway and roll the dice with the young guys. This isn’t a terrible idea given how the Colts start out their season. Giving young players a chance to gain experience could pay huge dividends in the long term. Additionally, the Colts early slate of games isn’t nearly as difficult so it makes sense to get them some action. TJ Green has shown promise in limited work. Nate Hairston has impressed.
The opposing QBs for the first five weeks of the season aren’t world beaters either. The list is Jared Goff, Carson Palmer, DeShone Kizer, Russell Wilson and Brian Hoyer. I mean, come on. You couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season.
The last aspect to counter is the contract situation. Haden is represented by Drew Rosenhaus. His clients typically get paid in a big way. Haden was scheduled to make $11M this year with the Browns. I’d guess that’s where Rosenhaus starts. To be clear, no way is he getting that much. However, Haden may pull in half of it on a one year prove it deal with a team option for year two at a larger salary.
There will be multiple suitors but those same suitors weren’t willing to give up any draft pick to keep Haden from hitting the open market. That’s telling. It also signals how much teams believe he is worth. Again, why I believe Haden won’t command half the salary he was scheduled to make this year in Cleveland.
So does it make sense to pay an injury plagued, former Pro Bowl CB a significant amount of money on likely a short term deal? My initial reaction was heck yes! However, after further review, I personally don’t think so. With how this season is starting, it’s likely best to try to grow their own talent and give the young guys an opportunity they wouldn’t have received otherwise. Call it a hunch, but just like with the Andrew Luck situation, I believe Ballard will make his decision with the future in mind rather than overreact to the immediacy of the present.