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15:08 08/31/2017

With Joe Haden move, Browns prove again they're right on the money

With Joe Haden move, Browns prove again they're right on the money

Just when you thought Sashi Brown was done slashing Browns, Joe Haden on Wednesday became the team's latest veteran cut.

The Haden move was also the latest coup for Brown's front-office regime in Cleveland.

Since January 2016, when the braintrust of Brown, Paul DePodesta and Andrew Berry were brought in to overhaul the personnel, they haven't disappointed, "Moneyball" and all.

MORE: Predicting Browns' 2017 record

With no more Haden, who was the Browns' first-round pick in 2010, coach Hue Jackson has only one player acquired before 2014 on his roster — stalwart left tackle Joe Thomas. With the trade of offensive lineman Cam Erving to the Chiefs, only Thomas and defensive lineman Danny Shelton remain as the team's non-rookie first-rounders.

While Thomas last season made it 10 Pro Bowls in 10 years, Haden faded with injuries and unreliability to go from all-star to also-ran at cornerback. There's a theme to where Cleveland has invested of late, whether it's salary under the cap or draft capital — tying into both Thomas and Shelton.

Not only did the front office keep Thomas, but they worked to put the right pieces around him.

Erving was a misfit as a tackle/center tweener. Left guard Joel Bitonio, the solid 2014 pick after Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel, is now flanked inside by center J.C. Tretter (Packers) and right guard Kevin Zeitler (Bengals) — two smart free-agent additions his offseason. Shon Coleman has gone from 2016 draft inspiration to a promising new starter at right tackle.

To build around Shelton up front defensively, the Browns first drafted end Emmanuel Ogbah in 2016. Then came the blockbuster trade for Jamie Collins for the edge, and this year, the selection of soon-to-be superstar Myles Garrett.

The Browns have focused on what amounts to ideal infrastructure, building from the inside out with the most important foundations of the offensive and defensive lines. At the same time, they've devalued the need to go after a top running back — undrafted RB Isaiah Crowell has turned into a fine early-down guy for Jackson — or overspending for little return at corner.

MORE: Naming Browns' worst-ever draft pick

Cleveland along the way has made some unfriendly moves regarding notable names, from Donte Whitner to Brian Hartline to Haden. But to get out of their rut, the Browns needed to be cold and calculated about reforming the roster the way it needed to be done.

After the massive stockpile in last year's draft, the 2017 combination of Garrett and DeShone Kizer — the rookie QB went from second-round project to deserving Week 1 starting quarterback in a hurry — is a haul that can help bridge the Browns from rebuilding to contending.

Think of the Khalil Mack-Derek Carr magic in Oakland. The Raiders still have secondary issues, and they have kept from splurging in the offensive backfield. But thanks to Mack wreaking havoc and Carr as the steadying young leader, they're in good shape be a consistent AFC playoff factor. From left tackle to right guard, thanks also to free-agent spending, they have the best offensive line west of Nashville and Dallas.

Early in Reggie McKenzie's tenure, people questioned what the Raiders were doing. He finished last season with his Raiders in the playoffs, and with Sporting News' NFL executive of the year award.

MORE: Each NFL team's absolute worst contract: the overpaid and the underperforming

Winter is here for Bengals, and it's coming soon for the Steelers and Ravens. The Browns had to keep purging the overpaid and underachieving to put themselves in position to surge when the time was right.

That time may not be now, in 2017, but Brown keeps working from the right blueprint.

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