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Haden free agency could prompt a memo from the league office

Joe Haden

FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden (23) walks off the field after an NFL preseason football game against the New York Giants, in Cleveland. Former Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden has been released by the Browns. Haden has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons. The Browns felt he was no longer going to help them and terminated his contract Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)


The Browns released cornerback Joe Haden early Wednesday morning. Not long after 4:00 p.m. ET, he had an agreement in place with the Steelers. In the interim, plenty of teams were jostling to get a deal in place with Haden.

Here’s the problem: Haden technically didn’t become a free agent until the NFL issued the daily transaction report containing Haden’s name.

The fact that multiple teams were pursuing Haden before 4:00 p.m. ET means that multiple teams technically were tampering with Haden. Which means, as one league source predicted to PFT, the league will be issuing a memo to all teams reminding them of the rule that a player who is cut in the morning isn’t free to be contacted in any way until the transaction report is released by the league.

It’s a minor violation, with no harm at all to the Browns. But that doesn’t change the fact that the rule was violated -- as the Chiefs learned the hard way in 2015 when they lost a third-round pick for talking directly to receiver Jeremy Maclin when they were permitted only to talk to Maclin’s agent.

The situation is another example of how the rules routinely are broken, and of how the NFL enforces the rules selectively. In this case, chances are the league won’t selectively enforce the rules against the Steelers or any other teams that were chasing Haden. But it may be enough to prompt the league to remind teams of the rule, if only to make it easier to ding someone else, when the league is motivated to take action against another team that commits the same violation at some point in the future.