After surveying the trade market for potential partners this week, the team opted to simply cut their star corner, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
"Joe gave everything he had for the Cleveland Browns and that's all you can ask for as a coach," Hue 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."
Added executive vice president Sashi Brown: "We want to thank Joe for all he has done for this organization both on and off the field. 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."
As would be expected, it seems there's a healthy market for Haden's services.
In addition, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president and CEO Stephen Jones told NFL Network's Steve Wyche the team will take a look at Haden, but mentioned that potential salary-cap implications could complicate any push for the cornerback. The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts also have shown interest in Haden, per Rapoport.
Haden, 28, reached the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014. The 2010 first-round pick signed a six-year, $74.678 million deal in 2014 but has struggled to find consistency in the years since. Haden has played in just 18 games since 2014, with three interceptions and 13 pass breakups in those two years. If Cleveland was going to make a move, this was the time to do so. As salary-cap tracking site Over The Cap points out, Haden has just $4 million guaranteed on his contract for 2017.
While it was moderately surprising that the Browns couldn't find a trade partner, Haden's name will raise some eyebrows on the open market. Cornerback depth is scarce around the league and a 28-year-old with a Pro Bowl past and a bounceback season in 2016 will generate some interest. Haden has been an upbeat ambassador in Cleveland despite the team's grim fortunes of late.
So goes Cleveland's push to install a cost-effective roster in its own vision. Haden pre-dated the Brown, Andrew Berry, Paul DePodesta, Jackson regime and was always going to be on uneven footing. The Browns are in the second of a three-year process to import a horde of young talent on both sides of the ball via the draft and want to give all their valued on-field reps to players who will be part of the future. The emergence of players like young undrafted free agent Briean Boddy-Calhoun and rookie first-round pick Jabrill Peppers this preseason likely made the cut a little easier for the Browns to stomach.
Haden will not be subject to the waiver claim process and can start entertaining offers after 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.