UPDATE: The Pittsburgh Steelers and Joe Haden agreed to a three-year contract worth as much as $27 million, according to the NFL Network.
The 49ers, who have plenty of salary-cap space and a need at cornerback, at least will look into adding a prominent figure at the position, Joe Haden.
“If we feel like he can help us at that position, then we’ll get involved and get active," general manager John Lynch said on KNBR radio Wednesday. "So we’re in that process right now."
The Cleveland Browns released Haden, a two-time Pro Bowler on Wednesday, with the Pittsburgh Steelers immediately emerging as his top suitor. The Steelers would give Haden an opportunity to play the Browns and familiar AFC North opponents twice a year and to perhaps contend for a championship.
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The 49ers could offer the 28-year-old Haden a huge salary. They currently are $68 million below the salary cap, according to the NFL Players Association, which is by far the most in the NFL.
The team's current cornerback starters have relatively little experience. Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson will enter the season with six career NFL starts apiece. Robinson has been picked on by opposing quarterbacks in the 49ers' first three preseason games.
Haden is familiar to San Francisco's secondary coach Jeff Hafley, who coached him in Cleveland in 2014 and 2015. Haden was the seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft.
At 5-11, 195 pounds, however, Haden is smaller than the ideal cornerback for the 49ers' new defense. His play also has fallen off sharply since his Pro Bowl seasons in 2013 and 2014. According to Pro Football Focus, last year was the worst of his career as Haden allowed an NFL-high high six touchdowns. The Browns have the second-most salary-cap space and have been trying to unload Haden for a year.
Lynch noted that he's already done research on Haden because the 49ers had a sense he would be released.
"Kyle (Shanahan) and I haven’t talked about it since it actually became a reality," he said. "So we’ll do that probably right after we hang up and see where we go.”