Haden’s an outstanding cornerback who had three or more interceptions in five of his seven seasons in the NFL. He’s struggled a little with injuries recently, but not to the extent that you’d expect him to continue to, he’s in the prime of his career at 28, and the Browns got rid of him mostly because he’s too expensive. More on that over at Dawgs By Nature.
Haden is good, is what I’m saying, and that’s why the Bucs should sign him. Players like this don’t hit free agency this late in the offseason. The Bucs don’t have much depth at outside cornerback, as we could see the past few games with Brent Grimes out. One injury could devastate this defense, while Haden would make it significantly stronger.
While signing Haden will eat into Vernon Hargreaves’ playing time, he would be insurance for Grimes (who’s likely to retire in pretty immediate future), and Hargreaves should be a good slot cornerback too—which would still give him a lot of playing time. Moreover, cornerbacks get injured with alarming regularity. Adding more is generally not a problem.
Haden was released because of his contract, and apparently no team was willing to give up anything of value to take on that obligation. Which is actually a pretty big red flag, because plenty of teams have the cap space to spend some $11 million per year on a cornerback.
Now that he’s available on the open market, though, he should get a lot of attention—which might even drive his contract price up a little. The Bucs can afford to pay anything that isn’t exorbitant: they have around $22 million in cap space right now.
Of course, the Bucs are very unlikely to actually sign Joe Haden. They don’t like to go after top-of-the-market players, and they really don’t like doing so at the end of the preseason. Signing him wouldn’t be entirely unprecedented—they traded for Logan Mankins in 2013 toward the end of preseason—but the fact that cornerback isn’t even a real need probably stifles any chance this has of happening.
Still, they totally should.