The Browns made a big splash in free agency today and signed two marquee free agents in Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner. Along with the Hellos the Browns were also forced to say farewell to two players TJ Ward (Denver) and Shawn Luavao (Washington).
Ward’s foreseen departure was set to make the biggest impact for the Browns this offseason, but the Browns wasted little time to fill the hole Ward left by making Donte Whitner their first free agency purchase. Whitner will be a great addition to the Browns, he is a home town boy and a great leader in the locker room, but will the absence of Ward still be felt by the Browns?
Ward was constantly improving every year, as evidenced by his All Pro season this past year. Ward was becoming the complete safety that everyone hoped he would be by constantly getting better against the pass. The Browns knew what they had in Ward, and there was no need to change it, if it ain’t broke why fix it?
Whitner by all accounts should be a great fit here in Cleveland he brings experience from a winning locker room with him, which is much needed, but every free agent pick up brings some risk, just look at Paul Kruger when he came over from Baltimore last year. Kruger did not have a bad year, but failed to live up to his enormous contract. Free agents don’t always make the immediate impact that they are expected to make. Some free agents are a product of their previous system and when that system changes they fall flat. The Browns would have been wise to eliminate any kind of risk here and sign Ward back on for the long run.
Even with the risk mentioned I do believe Whitner’s experience and veteran leadership will make the impact of losing Ward basically a non issue. Whitner has played in multiple systems and has been able to play well in each one, reducing the risk with him. Whitner’s skill set is also similar Ward’s (there is a reason he wants to change his name to Hitner) so Browns fans shouldn’t miss those punishing hits in the defensive backfield. Whitner’s college days and home town roots have already made him a fan favorite and he will play his butt off for the Dawg Pound.
Impact: Very Minimal if any
Shawn Luavao bolted from Cleveland as well today, big deal. I always rooted for Luavao but he never turned the corner. His constant struggles contributed to a non existent run game. Luavao plateaued early in his career and will be best suited in a back up role moving forward. Washington saw something the Browns didn’t and grossly overpaid for the guard. His departure will allow the Browns to find more quality players to fill his position. Good Riddance!