Coach Mike Pettine and Joe Haden
Joe Haden did it right.
He performed. He got paid.
That's how it's supposed to work in the NFL.
The Cleveland Browns did it right, too.
They saw Joe Haden perform at the level of a top-flight cornerback in the league. Rather than drag their feet and allow him to reach lame-duck status in the 2014 season, they proactively got his signature on a five-year contract extension.
The clear message delivered to the rest of the team and the rest of the league was this: the Browns will pay to keep their most talented players.
And Joe Haden is more than happy to spread the word.
"It shows that the organization, if you do right by the Browns and you go out there and play well, play like a Brown, they reward their players," Haden said. "I want my teammates and everybody to know that the organization will take care of you."
General Manager Ray Farmer has firmly established that policy, with the full support of team owner Jimmy Haslam and president Alec Scheiner.
Farmer didn't like the way things had gone down with center Alex Mack. The Browns' previous football decision-makers passed on the opportunity to sign Mack to a contract extension a year ago, allowing him to become a free agent. Efforts to get a long-term deal with him just before the start of the free-agency signing period on March 1 failed because Mack's mind was already made up that he was hitting the open market.
The Browns weren't proactive in that case, although they recovered nicely by giving Mack a transition tag and then promptly matching the offer sheet he received from the Jacksonville Jaguars to retain him.
Farmer wasn't going to allow that to happen a second time with a Pro Bowl player.
That was why, according to media reports, the Browns made Haden's salary commensurate with that of Seattle's Richard Sherman, widely regarded as the best cornerback in the NFL.
With the hefty payday comes the hefty responsibility of living up to even greater expectations than those with which Haden already was dealing after his first Pro Bowl season.
"A lot of people would think that you'll be happy or content (after receiving such a deal)," Haden said. "But for me, it's now I have so much more to prove. I don't feel like I've peaked yet, so during this contract, I'm just going to try to prove to everyone that I'm the number one cornerback in this league."
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