Countdown to 2020: Best Cleveland Browns player to wear No. 23
The best player to wear number 23 for the Cleveland Browns is currently a rival.
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 23 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 23: Joe Haden.
Joe Haden was drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the seventh overall pick of the first round in the 2010 NFL draft. Haden, an All-American defensive back at the University of Florida, was widely considered the best cornerback in the draft. After a disappointing performance at the NFL combine, the Maryland native redeemed himself with a stellar pro day. As predicted, Haden was the first cornerback chosen in the 2010 NFL draft.
After arriving in Cleveland, Haden was competing with veteran Eric Wright for a starting position. Although he was not named the starter coming out of training camp, Haden quickly cemented himself as the cornerback of the future for the Browns. Haden started seven games as a rookie and led the team with six interceptions. The Pro Football Writers of American named Haden to the All-Rookie Team for his efforts.
By his second season, Haden had firmly positioned himself as the Browns lockdown corner. In 2011, Haden started in all 15 games he appeared in. Even though he did not record any interceptions in his sophomore season, Haden finished sixth in the NFL with 19 passes defended.
His 2012 campaign was the first that was marred with injuries. Haden missed five games in 2012, but still managed to finish tied for the team lead in interceptions with three. Even with missing five games, Haden recorded 40 solo tackles which were the sixth-highest total on the team.
Haden’s two best seasons as a member of the Browns came in 2013 and 2014. By this point in his Browns tenure, Haden had developed into one of the absolute best cover corners in the league. Week after week, Haden would shadow the opposing team’s best wide receiver and lock him down. Haden had outstanding games against the likes of Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, and A.J. Green.
He finished both 2013 and 2014 with 20 passes defended, which ranked Haden in the top three in the league in both seasons. Haden’s 40 passes defended total for those two years was the most in the NFL. In both the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Haden was voted to the Pro Bowl for his stellar play.
Unfortunately, injuries got the better of Haden in 2015 and he was only able to play in five games. Haden did have a bounce-back year in 2016. He started in all 13 games he appeared in and finished the season tied for the team lead in interceptions with three.
Haden was then unceremoniously cut from the Browns towards the end of the 2017 training camp. The Browns attempted to get Haden to take a pay cut and when negotiations stalled, the veteran cornerback was released. Later that same day, Haden signed with the Browns hated rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Had Haden chose to go anywhere else, maybe other than Baltimore, he would still be beloved and celebrated in Cleveland.
Perhaps after Haden retires, the Browns fanbase will be able to appreciate just how good he was for his seven seasons in Cleveland. After all, Joe Haden, even though he still plays for the Steelers, is the best player to wear number 23 for the Cleveland Browns.