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Browns should pump brakes on reported Joe Haden trade talks

The Cleveland Browns would be smart to hold on to Joe Haden, at least for the short term, as defensive coordinator Gregg Williams shapes his defense.

NFL: New York Giants at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE (8/30): Well, things changed quickly: Wednesday morning, the Browns announced the release of Joe Haden. You can read about that here. The original reflection on Tuesday’s rumors of a trade is still preserved below.

Joe Haden has been a model franchise player for the Cleveland Browns. Not just on the field, either. He has struggled there due to injuries and other deficiencies, but in the community and revenue department he’s been an important face.

Players don’t get paid to be the face of a franchise, though, or to be active in the community, but you can’t discredit the type of person you’re dealing with when discussing the business reasons to keep or move on from a player.

That’s why, if true, the rumor reported by CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora that Cleveland’s “aggressively trying to trade him” because of his large contract, is a curious move.

Haden’s expensive, as La Canfora said as the reasoning for their motivation to move him. But he’s not that expensive, and the team can certainly afford to keep him around, at least for the short term. They have no immediate needs that are threatened by his cap hold, given that they’re still under the salary cap by a whopping $50 million.

Here’s a look at the type of cap space the Browns would free up by trading Haden now, courtesy of Spotrac.

As the Browns have no immediate need to move Haden now, it’s also not the best idea to do it now for two reasons. First, the Browns aren’t in position to deal defensive backs when they’re lacking adequate depth to fill in the gaps if Haden’s no longer in the equation. And it’s also hard to imagine Haden’s trade value becoming any lower than it has after his play has fallen off during the past few seasons.

From the look of his play on the field this preseason, and opinions of his coaches, Haden’s on the verge of having a bounce-back season in a new and more cornerback friendly Gregg Williams-led defense.

“I think he has had a great training camp, and I think he played well in our games,” coach Hue Jackson said after Tuesday’s practice. “He is a huge piece of what we do on defense, and we will just keep moving forward from there.”

If Haden’s a huge piece of the puzzle, and he’s worth his salt, then there’s no doubt he’ll play well this season in Williams’ aggressive scheme that affords him somewhat less liability in the secondary. If he plays well enough, he’ll help himself attract contenders at the trade deadline and also help the Browns land a much more lucrative return in any potential trade deal, assuming that’s still their plan at that hypothetical future date.

“Do I want Joe on our football team? Yes,” Jackson answered his own question. “Like I said, whatever our organization thinks is best, that is what we will do.”

What’s best for the cap conscious Browns organization is to wait this out and not tip their hands. It’s good the news of Haden being made available has surfaced to plant the idea around the league, but it’s not the best idea to act on any offers at this point.

Haden’s going to draw interest, but his high price tag and questionable performances in recent years will make teams hesitant to give a fair value return to acquire him.

You can make the case to trade Haden, easily. But it’s hard to make the case stick that says trading him right now is anywhere close to the best time to do so.