The Pittsburgh Steelers closed the 2019 off season by extending cornerback Joe Haden’s contract by 3 years. The new deal is for 32 dollars and includes a 16.2 signing bonus.
- It says here that the Steelers resigning Joe Haden is the right move, but one that carries some risk.
Before explaining why, let’s fess up and eat a slice of humble pie. When Cleveland unexpectedly released Joe Haden this time two years ago, yours truly published a missive titled “Steelers Sign Joe Haden. Is 2nd Time Charm for Pittsburgh & a Retread Cleveland Cornerback?.” The Steelers had struggled to find quality quarterbacks and had made a series of attempts at rehabilitating other team’s cast offs.
The Steelers immediately inserted Joe Haden into the starting line up, and Joe Haden became an immediate leader of the group. People forget, but Ben Roethlisberger struggled during the first half of 2017, as the Steelers defense carried the team to a 7-2 record.
- Joe Haden’s presence made that possible.
Joe Haden gave the Steelers what they have craved since Ike Taylor began to fade – a quality cornerback. But he also became a leader both on and off the field. Indeed, while most outsiders peg the demise of the Steelers defense to Ryan Shazier’s spinal contusion suffered in Cincinnati, the Steelers defense had actually begun to slip when Joe Haden got injured against the Colts.
- Perhaps most importantly, Joe Haden gave the Steelers secondary, and in fact the entire defense something it has lacked – playmakers.
The best example of that came last season during the win over the New England Patriots, when Joe Haden made a leaping catch to intercept Tom Brady in the Red Zone. That’s exactly the type of defensive spark the Steelers have needed in games like that, but been unable to find.
Opportunity Costs and Risks
Every long-term contact signing contains risks and carries opportunity costs. Joe Haden is 30 years old, and cornerback is a young man’s game. Ike Taylor was 31 years old when he signed is 3rd contract from the Steelers, and while Ike delivered two solid years of play, he began to slip in 2013 and by 2014 he was done.
- Likewise, the decision to sign Joe Haden means that the Steelers will not be able to extend the contracts of Sean Davis or Javon Hargrave who are both 25.
While Sean Davis is injured, and still must deliver, Javon Hargrave played exceptionally well down the stretch in 2018 and figures to the type of season that will allow him to cash in as a free agent.
But given the fact that the Steelers have had far better luck at replacing quality defensive lineman than then have had with replacing quality NFL cornerbacks, it is a wise risk to take.