(WVUE) - The New Orleans Saints' offseason-long pursuit of a Pro Bowl cornerback appears to have been reignited by the Cleveland Browns releasing Joe Haden Wednesday morning.
Haden was drafted 7th overall in 2010 out of Florida and has been a steady contributor for the Browns for much of his career. But injuries have forced him to miss 14 games the last two seasons.
The Saints are set to begin the regular season without the services of Delvin Breaux, who was diagnosed with a broken fibula two weeks ago. The inexperience behind Breaux reportedly leaves them as a main suitor for Haden's services:
"Joe gave everything he had for the Cleveland Browns and that's all you can ask for as a coach," said Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson. "He was a leader on and off the field. I wish him all the best as he continues his career."
He was due $11.1 million in salary this season. According to ESPN, who first reported the Saints' interest, Haden missed 11 games in 2015 due to a finger injury and a concussion.
In 2016, he missed three games but played through two groin injuries that ultimately required offseason surgery. Haden played in the Browns' preseason opener against the Saints, registering two tackles on the night. He told Cleveland reporters on August 17th "I'm feeling really, really good. The coaching staff, with the training staff, did a really good job of getting me every other day off. I didn't really think I needed it but just being able to keep my body at its peak, being able to take care of myself. I'm ready to go, I haven't felt this good in a while so I'm excited for where I'm at right now."
The eight-year veteran will be available for any team to sign at 3 p.m. central time Wednesday. He took to Instagram after the news broke to thank the Browns organization and fans:
The Saints openly pursued Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler for much of the offseason, including a restricted free agency visit in March. Sean Payton told reporters at the time in regards to a possible trade of Brandin Cooks to New England for Butler.
"The first three years he's had in this league, he's had a tremendous amount of success winning two Super Bowls in three years and being a big part of a team that's accomplished a lot," Payton said. "I'd say he's humble, but when you watch the tape, he's played with a chip on his shoulder. We practiced with New England in that three-year time frame twice. So there's a lot of additional practice tape that we have a chance to look closely at, and I'm sure Bill and his staff the same way when evaluating Cooks."
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