Browns Sign 2-Time Pro-Bowler to Historic Contract: Report

Getty Cleveland Browns corner Denzel Ward

The Cleveland Browns have locked up one of the best defenders in the NFL for the next six years.

The Browns on Monday, April 18, signed defensive back Denzel Ward to a five-year extension worth more than $100 million. All told, it is the richest contract for a cornerback in league history.

ESPN insider Adam Schefter broke the news via Twitter Monday morning.

“Browns are signing Pro-Bowl CB Denzel Ward to a 5-year, $100.5 million contract extension that includes $71.25 million guaranteed, per source. At age 24, Ward is the highest-paid CB in NFL history,” Schefter reported. “Tory Dandy of CAA Sports, who negotiated the contract, confirmed the deal to ESPN.”

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Browns Were Expected to Ink Ward to Big Deal

Denzel Ward

GettyCornerback Denzel Ward #21 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The news that Cleveland paid Ward was expected. The questions leading up to the historic extension involved when the franchise would close the deal and how much it would be worth.

As a former first-round draft pick, selected No. 4 overall in 2018, the Browns had the option of picking up a fifth year on Ward’s rookie contract through 2022. General manager Andrew Berry made the relatively easy decision to do so after Ward earned trips to the Pro Bowl in both his rookie season, as well as last year. As such, the cornerback will make just shy of $13.3 million next season.

Ward’s $100 million-plus extension will kick in beginning in 2023 and will run through 2027. The numbers on that deal came in slightly lower than projected by Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus, who predicted last December that the Browns would offer the cornerback $105 million total and guarantee him $72.5 million. Ward came in $4.5 million below that figure, with $1.25 million less guaranteed.

Spielberger’s projection was connected to the money being earned by the handful of cornerbacks in the NFL good enough to accurately refer to themselves as Ward’s peers. Marshon Lattimore of the New Orleans Saints, Ward’s former teammate at Ohio State University, signed a deal last offseason with an average annual value (AAV) of $19.52 million. That was the third-highest in the NFL before Ward’s deal became official on Monday, according to Pro Football Network.

CB Jalen Ramsey of the Los Angeles Rams was second with an AAV of $20 million, while Xavien Howard of the Miami Dolphins was first with an AAV of $25.35 million. While Ward’s AAV of $20.1 million places him second on the list of highest annual salaries among NFL cornerbacks, the length of his deal makes it more lucrative than any other cornerback’s, including Howard’s.

Browns Continue Spending Spree This Offseason

Deshaun Watson

GettyQuarterback Deshaun Watson, formerly of the Houston Texans, was traded to the Cleveland Browns during the 2022 offseason.

Ward is the latest in a string of players to cash in on huge paydays with the Browns this offseason. Both of his predecessors in this regard came to Cleveland by way of trades over the last several weeks.

First, there was wide receiver Amari Cooper, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys. The Browns did not sign nor extend Cooper, though they did pick up a contract with an AAV of $20 million over the next three years to make him the No. 1 receiver on the roster.

Following closely on Cooper’s heels was quarterback Deshaun Watson, formerly of the Houston Texans. Watson was under contract for four more seasons before the Browns extended him to a fifth year and upped his pay, fully guaranteeing the polarizing signal caller $230 million over that time period.

The Watson deal also made history as the largest fully-guaranteed contract ever signed by an NFL player.

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