Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd, Cleveland Browns strong safety T.J. Ward, and San Francisco 49ers strong safety Donte Whitner are generally regarded as the top three impending free agents, and they should all receive huge contracts. Whitner quietly had a phenomenal 2013 season, as he greatly improved his coverage. Even though he receives a high amount of fines, most of those are based on his reputation and not the hit itself, as he is one of the best form tacklers at the position and almost always hits with his shoulder. He hits hard, but he also hits clean.
While Whitner could be a bargain buy for teams on the free agent market, the USA Today’s Tom Pelissero believes that the 49ers will end up re-signing him. He does, however, believe that the Cleveland Browns will pick up Jairus Byrd at free safety to replace departed strong safety T.J. Ward, whereas Ward will land with the Denver Broncos.
Wait, the Broncos landing Ward? That’s interesting, and I wouldn’t take Pelissero’s prediction with a grain of salt, since he’s one of the top NFL Insiders around. Free safety Rahim Moore turned in a very good 2013 campaign before his season-ending injury, as he stabilized the team’s deep coverage. He’s an impending free agent, but it seems like the Broncos have a bigger need for an FS than an SS like Ward, since Duke Ihenacho is a decent enough starting safety. Ihenacho has strong instincts, hits hard, plays the run pretty well, and makes up for his subpar coverage by having a nose for the ball in pursuit. With the Broncos cap situation, I’m not sure Ward is a good option.