The Cleveland Browns have a very talented defensive backfield, and the biggest name in the secondary is shutdown corner Joe Haden. But two players who don’t get nearly enough love on a national scale are safeties Tashaun Gipson and T.J. Ward, with Ward being one of the league’s elite safeties. If you left him off of your All-Pro team, then I’d like to know who you picked above him; Ward has consistently been one of the best safeties in the league over the past couple of years. Gipson is also worth praising, and he’s been a favorite of the coaching staff’s for quite some time. They targeted him as their starting free safety this season ever since the early part of the offseason, and he’s done nothing but impress.
Ward is 27 and is set to hit free agency this year, as his rookie deal is set to finish. With 104 tackles and seven passes defended, Ward has had some solid numbers this season, and the tackles- almost all of them are solo, with 15 going for a loss- definitely do a good job of representing the impact he has made to the club as a terrific safety in run support. He can cover, too, and there is no doubt that the Browns will want to lock up one of their best players, especially since Ward is a real tone-setter on the Browns defense.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, T.J. Ward stated his desire to re-sign with Cleveland, “I definitely want to be back. I like my team. I love my teammates. I love being in this city. I love the organization. We haven’t had many wins, but I think we’re building something here, and I think it’s being built the right way. When you start something, I’m a person that wants to finish things and I want to finish things on a winning note. I want to play in the playoffs here, I want to bring this city a championship. I’ve been doing everything in my power to help this team win so I definitely want to see that through.”
He’s such a great player and important part of this defense that the Browns would be wise to use the franchise tag on him, but I doubt it comes to that. I am willing to bet that there is a whole lot of mutual interest between both parties to get a long-term deal done, and Ward genuinely wants to see the Browns turn-around all the way through. The All-Pro caliber safety has been a big part of the Browns organization ever since he was drafted, and it only makes sense for both parties to agree to a deal. Ward is going to make a large sum of money, but there is no doubt that he’s earned. He may be worried that this week’s rivalry tilt against the Pittsburgh Steelers will be his last in a Browns uniform, but I highly doubt that’s the case.