The analytics from recent seasons were not kind to Haden. Football Outsiders ranked him 76th out of 87 NFL corners a year ago. Pro Football Focus said he gave up a league-high six touchdowns in 2016 and 1.48 yards per cover snap -- 92nd out of 117. What those numbers ignore is that Haden played through two groin injuries that required postseason surgery.
But PFF has other numbers, including passer rating when throwing at a corner. The past two seasons the rating throwing against Haden was 158.2 (near perfect) and 97.7. After double-digit passes defensed from 2010-14, he had three and seven the past two seasons, respectively. His PFF grade was above 80 until the past three seasons, when it dropped to 79.3, 31.8 and 46.0.
Those numbers do not scream that this is a guy who can shut down A.J. Green or other top receivers. They also are tough numbers to swallow for those who saw Haden at his best.
The Browns have made a living in recent years of bringing in guys who were past their prime. They now are turning to 30-year-old Jason McCourty as one of their top three corners, and Pittsburgh is turning to Haden, a guy the Browns gave up on.
Haden’s production and performance will be evident. Whether the Browns or Haden are right about his abilities will show on the field.
Some other random thoughts heading into Thursday's preseason finale at the Chicago Bears:
Haden’s departure seemed to catch his teammates by surprise. Even if he wasn’t the Haden of his prime, his teammates felt that 60 percent of his best was still pretty good.
The most excited tandem in the country upon hearing news of Haden’s release? Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, who will face a trio of corners in the regular-season opener that isn't exactly intimidating.
On paper there is no better fit for Haden than with the Steelers, who clearly believe he can still play.
The Browns’ lack of talent at receiver and tight end can’t be underestimated. Corey Coleman is going into the season off one good preseason game, Kenny Britt off none. None of the other receivers has stepped forward, and Randall Telfer is not a receiving threat at tight end. The position is a gigantic concern, and might well be addressed with waiver pickups after final cuts.
Dallas turned to Dak Prescott last season because Tony Romo got hurt. Prescott looked up and saw the best offensive line in the league, Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott. DeShone Kizer has Isaiah Crowell and a rebuilt line, but the Browns’ receivers combined do not add up to Bryant.
I still don’t fault the Browns for losing Terrelle Pryor to free agency. The contract they offered Pryor was the same that Britt took, and it was plenty generous. It was Pryor who turned it down and chose to test his value. If you want to question making Britt the replacement, then we can talk.
Joe Schobert had a very good preseason at middle linebacker. But he went from 245 pounds a year ago to about 230 this season. How he holds up to the physical pounding inside will be interesting.
The Browns roster that will take the field in Chicago has four players age 30 or older: punter Britton Colquitt, guard John Greco, offensive lineman Joe Thomas and McCourty. It has 54 who are 24 or younger.