The Cleveland Browns will most likely lose elite strong safety T.J. Ward in unrestricted free agency this offseason, as the market for a player of Ward’s caliber is vast. Most of the smoke linking the Browns to a top safety has been directed toward Buffalo Bills elite free safety Jairus Byrd, who would give the Browns a top-notch playmaker to pair with CB1 Joe Haden and greatly aid their deep coverage. But Byrd is a pricey option, so it might be more realistic for the Browns to keep Tashaun Gipson and sign a strong safety to replace Ward.
It was reported earlier today that the Browns have significant interest in Donte Whitner, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot reports that the team is “very serious” about signing the Cleveland native to replace Ward.
Although Whitner isn’t quite as good as Ward, he’s a great safety in his own right and hits even harder. Both players make a strong impact in run defense, even if Whitner doesn’t have as much range or the insane instincts that Ward possesses. Not only will Whitner come at a cheaper price, but I think you could legitimately argue that he’s better than Ward is in coverage. Others are interested in Whitner and the San Francisco 49ers would love to keep him around, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Browns were the favorites to sign him.