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Why the Packers should or shouldn’t try to sign CB Joe Haden

A pair of APC writers give both sides of the Joe Haden discussion.

Cleveland Browns v Green Bay Packers Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images

This morning, the Cleveland Browns announced their intention to release former All-Pro cornerback Joe Haden, who had been a cornerstone of the team’s secondary for the past seven years. Haden signed a massive contract extension prior to the 2014 season, but missed most of 2015 due to injury.

Although the Packers have invested in the cornerback position this offseason, APC writers differ on whether Haden is a worthwhile target for the team at this point. Here are both sides of the argument.

Don’t Sign Haden

(by Evan “Tex” Western)

Joe Haden was very good, for a few years in the early part of this decade, and could even be called great at times. However, in short, I believe that he is a shell of his former self. After losing most of the 2015 season to injury, Haden had an abysmal 2016 campaign. Football Outsiders described his 2016 as follows in their 2017 Almanac:

After a horrendous injury-plagued 2015, Haden ranked 76th out of 87 qualifying cornerbacks in adjusted yards per pass in 2016. Quarterbacks certainly aren’t afraid anymore, as Haden’s estimated target percentage has been over 20 percent each of the past three seasons.

This means that opposing quarterbacks are throwing at him a lot, and having plenty of success when doing so. For more traditional stats, see below:

That was over Haden’s last 18 games, since he missed most of 2015. Compare that to Davante Adams’ stat line in 2016: 75 catches on 121 targets, 997 yards, 12 touchdowns. Basically, opposing receivers have had the same amount of success recently against Haden as Adams had against everyone last season.

Because of guaranteed money and offset language in his contract with the Browns, there would admittedly be little to no financial risk in signing Haden if his price stays below $4 million. Then again, that is itself no sure thing. However, I am confident in saying that I believe he would be the Packers’ fifth-best cornerback at best, and the players who are currently in the five and six slots (probably Josh Hawkins and LaDarius Gunter) have specific physical tools that are better than Haden’s (speed for Hawkins and size for Gunter). They each have over a year in the Packers’ system to better understand the defense, whereas Haden would have to spend the first few weeks of the year just getting acclimated — taking up a roster spot that could be given to a more immediate contributor.

To make a long story short, it’s not worth the Packers’ time to kick the tires on Haden when there is already depth and talent at the cornerback position and he has shown no recent sign that he will return to his previous success.

Sign Haden

Mike Vieth

I am all for the Packers taking a look at Joe Haden to improve their cornerbacks. I feel the cornerback position needs some improvement if the Packers want to become a more complete defense. Now saying that, I don’t believe the Packers come anywhere near breaking the bank to get Haden. In fact, I think a one-year “prove your worth” contract could be the best option.

It seems many people are knocking Joe Haden for his performance for the past few years, and most of that is warranted. Tex has some analytical stats showing how bad Haden has been in Cleveland. While some of it is valid, I’m not a huge fan of the analytic side of the game and I think it’s more important how a player fits into the scheme that the defensive/offensive coordinator brings to each team. With that, I’m giving the legit excuse for Haden’s play is because he was on the most dysfunctional NFL team since he was drafted in 2010. He had to endure five head coaching changes (only three of whom are still in the NFL) and five defensive coordinator changes (none are currently in the NFL) during his tenure. How can a player develop and evolve within a system if there is no continuity? If the Packers meet with him and it is determined that he fits within the Dom Capers coverage schemes, he should be an asset to a cornerback group that is lacking of playmakers.

I feel the same about the current Packers cornerbacks as I some think about Haden. None are truly established players and need a good season if they are to continue their development and be a part of the Packers future. Davon House was released from Jacksonville back in March after he couldn’t beat out rookie Jalen Ramsey and free agent signing Prince Amukamara out for a job in 2016. House went from a career year in 2015 with the Jags to being an afterthought when Jacksonville brought in a new defensive coordinator and scheme. Even after Amukamara left for the Bears in 2017, the Jags brought in AJ Bouye and House became expendable at his contract rate. House seemed to fit well with the Dom Capers defensive scheme and I hope he regains his old form but seeing him as the Packers number one corner doesn’t give me a lot of confidence.

The rest of the corners, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, and Kevin King, all need a good year or two of development still. Randall and Rollins are coming off injuries at the end of last year and need to prove they are up to speed. Rollins seems to have the edge to start the year but he is still such a raw corner that he will need help covering the outside. Randall looked to be coming into his own at the end of his rookie year but I thought he had big sophomore slump last year and seemed out of position and a step slow compared to his competition. Both Randall and Rollins still have time to make the jump to the next level but Haden can bring a veteran presence and cover a weakness until they are ready to do that. As for Kevin King, he needs a year or two in the system before an evaluation can really be made, but if you look at his preseason performances, he doesn’t seem ready for the spotlight quite yet.

Haden has had some injury concerns over the past couple years but seems to be fully healthy this season. If he is 100% and shows any of the ability he had earlier in his career, two Pro Bowls and a 2013 second team All-Pro selection, why not bring him in for a look? The Packers will have nothing to lose and bringing in more competition to push the current players to become better with every rep in practice is a win-win situation.