According to Dustin Fox the Cleveland Browns are likely to land their safety when signings are allowed tomorrow at 4PM. Not Jarius Byrd and not T.J. Ward, instead it’s Buckeye alum and Cleveland native Donte Whitner:
Both Fox and Whitner played at The Ohio State University so it is likely that Fox has some sources connected with Whitner. The impact of Whitner could be huge, both on the field and off, so lets take a look:
On the Field
Whitner is a veteran safety going into his 9th year in the league. He was drafted in the first round, possibly overdrafted, at #8 by the Buffalo Bills. He then spent the past 3 season with the San Francisco 49ers and will turn 29 before next season starts. Whitner has been consistent, only 1 season below 13 games played, which is close to miracle given his physical style of play. While he has never had more the 2 interceptions in a season Whitner has been a highly impactful player. Two of the last three seasons he has had 10 or more passes defended and has forced 8 fumbles in his career. Whitner excels in run coverage but has appropriate range and physicality to match-up with tight ends. While he may be hitting the twilight of his career in the next few seasons, as long as he stays healthy Whitner will contribute to the Browns defense.
Off the Field
Other Free Agents
Signing Whitner most likely takes the Browns out of touch with resigning Ward. While you never say never the new coaching staff has been linked to a number of safeties but rarely Ward. For the Browns Whitner may be a cheaper version of what Ward gave them. The Browns may still be in the market for Byrd but will have to be cautious how much money they spend on their defensive backfield. A hometown discount from Whitner would be greatly helpful. Those hoping the Browns would spend money on a cornerback as well may be disappointed. The Browns could have money allocated for either another safety like Byrd or a corner but unlikely for both after signing Whitner.
Following Whitner’s career back to OSU and since then he always has been active in the community and on Twitter since his arrival in social media. Whitner growing up in Cleveland could make him a great ambassador for the Browns to other free agents. It will also assist the team’s growing desire for more positive PR as Whitner clearly interacts with the fans of his team. Whitner is a loyal guy who will stand up for his teammates, his town and the fans at ever turn.
Adding Whitner to Joe Haden gives the Browns talent on the back end, but it also helps the leadership aspect of the team. Cutting D’Qwell Jackson and letting go of Ward left a hole that needed to be filled. Whitner’s experience should play an even more valuable role off the field in relation to the locker room. Whitner left the Bills, a perennial loser, to join the 49ers. He learned what a winning locker room looked like and should bring that with him to the Browns.
What do you think of the Whitner signing and the impact it will have on the Browns in multiple ways?