Exodus 20:17 is pretty definitive.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
If you’re into literal Biblicisms there is no mention of cornerbacks in that verse, so when Joe Haden became available, the Pittsburgh Steelers pounced, signing the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback before he even got used to the idea he was unemployed.
The Steelers’ AFC North rival (using that term very loosely), the Cleveland Browns, released the veteran CB early Wednesday morning, and with teams lining up for his services, Haden decided to stay intra-division was the prudent course for him, agreeing to a three-year deal worth $27 million with $7M of that guaranteed for 2017.
Pittsburgh, of course, has owned the nicest house in the neighborhood whether it has been called the AFC Central or North since Chuck Noll arrived in the Steel City in 1969, but that doesn’t mean the Steelers can’t covet some of the nicer things in the rundown house down the block.
Cornerback has been a major issue for Pittsburgh in recent seasons, and back in 2013 and 2014, outside of Joe Thomas, Haden may have been the nicest thing the Browns had.
Injuries have taken their toll over the past two years and the 28-year-old former top-10 pick no longer looks like a lockdown corner, but he could be an upgrade for the Steelers at a reasonable price if healthy and motivated.
The latter seems to be the case as an NFL source confirmed to FanRag Sports that Haden had a number of offers in the queue but wanted to be in Pittsburgh.
Whether that’s because the Steelers have used the Browns for kindling over the years or Haden wanted to stay in the division to show Cleveland he can still play is inconsequential at this point.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin has seen Haden up close for years and understands this could be a significant upgrade for a team that had Artie Burns, Russ Cockrell, William Gay and Coty Sensabaugh penciled in as its top options.
Early indications are that the Steelers would like Haden to eventually start opposite Burns, like Haden a former first-round pick.
The Browns’ issues with Haden were almost all money-related in that he was scheduled to be paid like a CB1 ($11.1 million this season) and hasn’t been that type of player in two calendar years. Cleveland broached a pay cut with Haden, who declined. The Browns then looked to the trade market, but the salary made that untenable.
The move does benefit the Browns in one way, however. They were still on the hook to pay $4 million to Haden this season, but there was offset language in the contract, meaning that Cleveland is no longer obligated to pay that.
Interestingly, the Browns and Steelers will meet in Week 1 of the season, and Cleveland can only hope it isn’t coveting what it once had.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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