<
>

Browns position outlook: Safety

1/29/2014

2014 free agents: T.J. Ward will be an unrestricted free agent.

The good: Ward and Tashaun Gipson played pretty well. Ward went to the Pro Bowl, and at one point of the season former defensive coordinator Ray Horton said Gipson was the team’s defensive MVP. The two are young enough to be a formidable pair for several years.

The bad: Ward might not be around any longer. He is a free agent who has spent his entire career in Cleveland losing a lot more than he’s won. In Ward’s four seasons in Cleveland, the team has gone 18-46. Despite that, Ward says he likes playing for the Browns and he’d like to stay. His agent, though, has yet to field offers for him on the market. Barring a surprise franchise tag, Ward will likely test the market -- and find another team.

The money: What to pay Ward and whether to apply the franchise tag to him are two of the Browns' biggest offseason questions. The team may feel that Josh Aubrey can step in the way Gipson did this season, and the negative about Ward is that the Browns won 18 games in the four years he started. One might assume they can win that many games with just about anyone. If CEO Joe Banner’s history in Philadelphia is any indicator, the Browns will not pay a safety top dollar. Just ask ex-Eagles star Brian Dawkins.

Draft priority: If Ward leaves, the Browns will have created another need on a team that already has many needs. Addressing it somewhere in the draft will be important.