Browns DC: Haden must be more than 'average'
“I think he is having for him, he would probably say an average year,” Horton said in his weekly media get-together. “He would probably expect a little bit more from him(self).”
Haden does not disagree.
“To my standards, yes,” Haden said. “I feel like I should not really let people catch the ball at all.”
As the Browns’ best cornerback, Haden is assigned to cover the opposing team’s best receiver. This season, that has included guys like Brandon Marshall (Jets), A.J. Green (Bengals), Antonio Brown (Steelers) and, this week, Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants).
“If I wasn’t guarding A.J. and Antonio, I think my numbers might be a little better,” Haden said with a laugh. “But I look forward to it. Got the contract. That’s what I do. I play corner. I feel like I’m the best corner in the game, and I wouldn’t want them to play anybody on the No. 1 guy but me.”
Haden, 27, signed a five-year, $65.5 million contract extension — with more than $40 million guaranteed — in May 2014. Since signing, he went to the Pro Bowl (for the second time) in 2014, then missed 11 games in 2015 with a concussion and finger issue. He has struggled through groin muscle pulls this season, missing three games.
He had seven interceptions the two seasons prior to his extension; he has had six in the two years and 11 games since.
Haden, however, is judged on expectations. After missing a good part of preseason and training camp following ankle surgery, Haden returned and was greeted with a slap of the hand from coach Hue Jackson, who called him the “best in the league.” That’s the type of play the Browns want.
“I would say for him average, just because we expect so much more out of him,” Horton said of Haden’s play this season. “I am sure he does, too. He knows he can play at a very high level. He has done it — the accolades and the respect that people have for him.
“Obviously, when you go against the Antonio Browns, the Odell Beckham Jrs., the A.J. Greens and all of the guys that he has been against, they are going to catch some of theirs just because of the way the league is. But we and he expect a lot more out of him, meaning he expects himself to be one of the top players in the league.”
Haden has had the misfortune of pulling both the left and right groin muscles in practice this season. He said the right one still bothers him, and Horton admitted Haden is not 100 percent.
“So I got to do what I got to do,” Haden said. “Got to make sure I play top down, keep the receivers in front of me.
“I’m battling through. Definitely for my standards, I don’t feel like I’m playing to the best of my ability, but I’m giving it all I got.”
Haden had two of his three interceptions in the same game, Sept. 18 against Baltimore, an example of what he can do when healthy. But he feels that since he was elected a team captain, he owes it to the team to play even if he is not 100 percent.
“[It’s] not like I’m having a bad year,” Haden said, “but to my standards I just feel like I should be the best corner in the league. And I don’t feel like I’ve been playing like the best corner in the league this year.”
He has not lost confidence, though. Haden said he is “1,000 percent” certain he is a Pro Bowl corner if healthy, and still Pro Bowl caliber with a medium year.
He also shrugs off the impact of his contract, which has him making $10.1 million this season, $11.1 million in each of the next two seasons and $10.4 million in 2019. Haden’s $13.4 million in salary cap costs is a team high and ranks fourth in the NFL among cornerbacks.
Lower-than-expected production combined with high pay sometimes means a player could be vulnerable to release. The Browns have shown no inclination that they may give up on Haden, but odd things can happen in the offseason — especially with teams like the Browns (0-11) that are going with younger rosters.
“They can do what they do,” Haden said. “I feel like with my ability, I’ll get paid wherever I play.”