CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - There may be a couple of reasons why the Browns shouldn't trade Joe Haden, but the fact that he's a fan favorite shouldn't be one of them. Moving forward and finally finding (and then actually sustaining) success isn't built on popularity contests. Not with players, and not with coaches. If it were, Bill Belichick wouldn't be in the league, much less cementing his status as the greatest NFL coach who ever lived.
In fact, Belichick's a great place to start in this discussion, because he's shown more than anyone that he'll cut ties with a player as soon as he notices "diminishing skills". He famously did it with Bernie Kosar here in the 90's, he shipped off Randy Moss in 2010, and at some point (the ultimate test of that philosophy) he may have to do it with Tom Brady.
So back to Haden, who just three years ago was one of the top corners in the league, and had the new $70 million deal to prove it. Since then, multiple injuries including a concussion (2015) and groin (2016) have knocked him off the field and into the trainer's room. Haden has missed 14 games the past two seasons, and when he is on the field, he isn't the explosive shut-down corner that he once was.
That contract, which still has $33 million left on it over the next three years, may be too big to move, although there are a couple of teams with cap space that could use a healthy, former Pro-Bowl CB, and another with little space (Colts) who just lost a two-time Pro Bowler of their own (Vontae Davis). The Browns would have to eat much of Haden's deal for a trade with Indy to go down.
The reasons to keep him? He's still only 28, is a team leader, and if healthy, can still play. But if another team bites on a Browns offer, well, that may not be enough.
There's no question that Haden is a staple of our sports community. He's one of the most likable athletes I've ever covered, and in fact was a member of our "Tailgate 19" team one year, along with his wife Sarah. He's a regular at Cavaliers games, and even helped bring good luck to them at one of the NBA Lottery drawings. But seeing him courtside in a Cavs jersey isn't enough to keep him on the field in a Browns jersey. Not if he can't return to 2014 form, and not if the Browns' youth movement can receive something significant in return.