Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward has drawn interest from 11 teams, Browns still in mix
|Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward could be gone when free agency begins Tuesday. (PD File)|
The Browns began talking to Ward's agent, Josh Arnold, at the NFL Scouting Combine last month, and have engaged in talks since then.
One team expected to pursue Ward is the +Denver Broncos, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post. Former Browns general manager Tom Heckert, who drafted Ward in the second round of the 2010 draft out of Oregon, is the Broncos Director of Pro Personnel.
Broncos expected to pursue Cleveland SS T.J. Ward when market opens Thursday. http://t.co/NHGhH8UmJC via @denverpost
— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) March 10, 2014
Another team that's checked into Ward is the +Detroit Lions, according to +NFL.com. They released safety Louis Delmas and are looking to replace him.
However, they have only about $10 million in cap space, and would probably need to restructure Ndamukong Suh ($22 million cap number for 2014) to lure Ward. The +Philadelphis might also be on the list because Ward played for coach Chip Kelly at Oregon.
Of the 11 teams, interest is strong from at least several. Others might not be able to meet his asking price -- which could be upwards of $8 million a year.Ward, 27, is receiving plenty of action because he's so highly rated. Profootballfocus.com has him ranked as the third best safety in the NFL behind +New England Patriots' Devin McCourty and the +New York Giants' Will Hill.
Ward is also the site's top-ranked safety against the run, and 12th-best in coverage. For comparison's sake, Bills free safety Jairus Byrd, who's believed to be on the Browns radar, is the eighth best safety in the NFL according to profootballfocus.com. As of Sunday afternoon, the Brown hadn't yet inquired about Byrd.
Ward's agent released a statement last week saying that he had several talks with the Browns about an extension for Ward, but had been unable to reach an agreement.
"Detailed contract discussions with multiple front office executives of the Browns began last month at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis,'' he said in the statement. "Since then several conversations have occurred in an attempt to secure a new deal for T.J., but we've yet to agree on terms that work for both sides.
“T.J. has proven himself to be not only an elite NFL safety, but an elite and top NFL player league wide which is evidenced by him earning both All-Pro and Pro Bowl recognition this past season. With the passing of the franchise/transition tag deadline, we remain open to further discussions with the +Cleveland Browns in working towards a long-term deal and look forward to that possibility.
"However, if things don't work out in Cleveland, we likewise look forward to the opportunity that can coincide with becoming an unrestricted free agent. Several factors will be considered before making a final decision that will provide best for T.J. and his family.”
Ward told foxsports.com last month that he wanted to return to Cleveland.
"That's definitely my goal," he said. "I want to stay there. I've been there from when things were rough and for me to be a part of it when we get on top would be something very special. Hopefully, we can raise that Lombardi Trophy. It would be great for Cleveland. It would be great to bring a championship there and for me to say that I was there when we weren't good and now we're on top would be great.
But he also sounded resigned to the fact that he might be gone.
"I'm definitely looking for the situation where it can provide for me best,'' Ward said. "If not (Cleveland), I'll have to be somewhere else.''
As of mid-February, he hadn't yet met coach Mike Pettine, but heard good things about him from Byrd, Ward's former Oregon teammate "I heard from Byrd that Pettine's a good coach. He has a great scheme and he allows players to make plays. He tailors the defense to what people do best. If I'm back I'm sure it'll be a pleasure to play for him.''
If the Browns don't re-sign Ward, they'll most likely either look for another strong safety in free agency or draft one.