Joe Haden Is New King of the Cornerback Ring

While Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson exchange barbs in a metaphysical Million Dollar Summer Slam Ladder match at SummerSlam over which was worth more money to their franchise, the lights went dark, Joe Haden’s music blared over the arena speakers and the Browns cornerback jaunted up the ramp with the ultimate prize in his possession.

I use the ladder match comparison because sometimes it feels like the NFL offseason is a no-holds-barred match to become the NFL’s highest paid player at their respective position.

On Wednesday, Browns cornerback Haden tiptoed into the fray, intercepting Haden and Sherman by raising the contract bar another six inches when he inked a five-year, $68 million contract, including $45 million fully and conditionally guaranteed. While both corners were in the dark squabbling, the Cleveland Browns cornerback snuck into the ring and became the NFL’s highest-paid defensive back after making his first Pro Bowl in four seasons in 2013. Sherman’s four-year, $56 million deal is worth slightly more on an annual basis than Haden’s but his contract includes one fewer year and is capped at $40 million guaranteed, which didn’t go unnoticed by Peterson — or his agent.

Or Sherman, who congratulated Haden with great aplomb.

I was not as dignified as either one of those gentlemen. 

The Browns have a little money to throw around these days, but unlike the Seahawks, Cleveland hasn't even sniffed the AFC playoffs.

However, the Browns have to take care of the few assets they do have in Cleveland, especially after Josh Gordon’s failed drug test and Nate Burleson’s broken arm. Consistency is a rare mineral in Cleveland.

The pertinent question is whether Haden is actually worth the contract bump. In four seasons Haden has seven fewer interceptions (13 to Sherman’s 20) than Sherman has in three, while simultaneously becoming one of the least targeted corners in the league and a Super Bowl champion. I doubt he'll play out the full-length of his deal, but tally another victory for his agent Drew Rosenhaus' dark negotiating magic.

The Cardinals and Browns have missed the playoffs in consecutive years while the Seahawks are gridiron kings, therefore it’s only appropriate that Seattle actually displays better management skills by locking up the better cornerback for less. By getting Sherman’s contract done quickly the Seahawks avoided getting caught up in an escalating bubble market. (Maybe that’s the implosion Mark Cuban was referring to?)

Sherman is locked in with Seattle, but the bar has been raised for the Cardinals and Peterson.

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