The veteran cornerback recanted his intention of signing a contract extension with the Steelers.
Instead, he mentioned that the franchise must focus on locking linebacker T.J. Watt into a long-term deal.
For the first time in his career, Haden will test the free agency market after this season.
In 2017, the Cleveland Browns let Haden go because he refused to take a pay cut.
By that time, Haden was already a two-time Pro Bowler and a second-team All-Pro member.
Therefore, his departure was a shock among the Browns faithful.
It didn’t take long before their division rivals in Pittsburgh took advantage and signed Haden to a three-year, $27 million deal hours after his release.
Pittsburgh signed Haden to a two-year, $22 million deal before the 2019 season.
As a reward for the Steelers’ trust, he went on to have 65 tackles and five interceptions throughout the year.
His efforts landed him his third Pro Bowl appearance as a replacement for Marcus Peters.
This year, Haden will earn a $7 million base salary from Pittsburgh.
However, the franchise wanted to finalize an extension with him before the season starts.
But he referenced his impending status as a free agent in one of his latest tweets.
— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) September 1, 2021
Is he making the right move by leaving Pittsburgh after five seasons?
Will there be a market for him in free agency?
Whatever happens, Haden will ball out because it will be a monumental contract year.
An Audition Of Sorts For Haden
NFL teams might jump into the opportunity of signing Joe Haden based on his past accolades alone.
But general managers make decisions yearly.
That’s why the upcoming season will be big for Haden.
He must prove that he is still worthy of getting top dollar as a reliable cornerback.
Any slip in his production will correspond to a reduction of his value as well.
Sure, the projected increase on next season’s salary cap will give teams some leeway to spend more.
Yet Haden must deliver an output comparable to other top players in his position for that to happen.
Joe Haden is 32 at a position where the end can often arrive suddenly, and dramatically. Giving him an extension when he only wanted to play outside corner would have been a terrible idea. If he plays his way into another big deal, great for him – and the Steelers' defense.
— Chris Mueller (@ChrisMuellerPGH) September 1, 2021
As it stands, Pro Football Focus ranks him as the 17th-best cornerback in the league coming into the 2021 season.
That’s lower than Haden’s average of $11.2 million with the Steelers.
Father Time may also go up against him.
Even if he missed just eight games through his tenure in Pittsburgh so far, cornerbacks often decline as they age.
Speaking of age, teams might fight for younger free agent cornerbacks once the 2022 free agency starts.
Given that players get offers based on their recent performance, Haden can get a big deal if he has comparable or better numbers than those mentioned above.
Otherwise, his gamble in leaving the Steelers will not pay off.NEXT: Dwayne Haskins Getting Prime Chance To Stick With Steelers