Cornerback is officially the new wide receiver for the Eagles. If there is a high-profile cornerback available, somewhere an Eagles fan thinks the team should go get him.
That might be the best explanation for why somebody would want the Eagles to sign free-agent cornerback Joe Haden, who was released by the Browns on Wednesday. According to Jason La Canfora, Haden is considering one-year contracts as well as multi-year offers and is expected to make his decision within the next 24 hours. Per La Canfora, the Eagles are in the mix.
The Eagles already addressed the corner position with a trade this month, acquiring Ronald Darby from the Bills for Jordan Matthews and a third-round draft pick. Say what you want about Darby, but that was a major investment, as were second- and third-round choices spent on Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas in April. Jalen Mills is playing well, and Patrick Robinson, Dexter McDougle, C.J. Smith and Aaron Grymes are all still in the mix as well.
How many cornerbacks do the Eagles need?
But this is Joe Haden! Yeah, so about that …
At one point, Haden was arguably one of the top five corners in the NFL, earning back-to-back Pro Bowl invitations in 2013 and ’14. The former seventh-overall selection in the draft recorded 87 pass breakups and 16 interceptions during his first five seasons in the league. He was very good, probably elite.
Haden has not been the same player since. The 28-year-old always had issues with nagging injuries, but he missed 14 games over the past two seasons – nearly a full schedule’s worth. Not coincidentally, a severe concussion and groin injuries have corresponded with a massive drop-off in performance. Haden ranked tied for 53rd (with Mills) among corners with a 97.7 opponents’ passer rating in coverage in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus, and 76th in adjusted yards per pass, according to Football Outsiders Almanac.
Whether it's injuries, Haden is disinterested after years of losing in Cleveland, or both, this clearly is not the mark of a shutdown corner. That being said, is he young enough to turn his career around?
It’s a fair question, but here’s one reason the Eagles probably won't be willing to find out: Money.
Prior to his release, Haden was set to earn over $11 million in 2017. He won't be seeing that kind of cash now, but it's not like he's going somewhere to play for the league minimum, either. Haden will command a hefty sum.
This isn’t a matter of the organization being cheap. This is a matter of whether the Eagles, who have already invested so many draft choices at corner, should pay Haden multi millions of dollars when he hasn’t been healthy or good in over two years.
Even if such a decision is justified, it seems completely unnecessary. Haden isn’t guaranteed to be an upgrade over Darby or Mills. Haden's presence on the roster might not be necessary by the end of this season, once Jones is recovered from a torn Achilles and Douglas is more comfortable with the speed of the game.
A desperate team, perhaps a championship contender, will give Haden a shot. The Eagles are not desperate at corner anymore, nor is ’17 Super Bowl or bust.
Haden could very well become a good player again in the right situation. He's also closing in on his 30th birthday and will be after some serious coin. With so much young talent on the roster already, it's hard not to think the Eagles might be better off rolling over their remaining cap space into next season.
Granted, a play for Haden makes more sense now than it did earlier this week when the Browns were trying to move him in a trade – that was a total non-starter. Now that he's a free agent, it's worth a conversation at least, though this rumor is not going much further than that.
Rating the Rumor: The Eagles are preparing for September 10