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If he has it his way, Denzel Ward will be staying in Cleveland for the foreseeable future.
Ward, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, said on Tuesday that his agent has had contract extension talks with the Browns, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “In a perfect world, I’d definitely want to be a Brown for my entire career,” Ward said.
In three NFL seasons, Ward has been a high-level cornerback for the Browns, though he has had some injury issues. He’s played 37 of 48 possible games in his career (starting in all but one), recording seven interceptions and 40 passes defensed during that time. He’s allowed only 130 of 254 passes thrown his way in coverage to be completed, a 51.2% completion rate. Quarterbacks have averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt on those throws as well, a considerably below-average mark.
Given his play and his age (24 years old), it’s likely that Ward will seek a deal at or near the top of the cornerback market. Jalen Ramsey’s five-year, $100 million extension is currently the largest deal for a cornerback. He also tops the league with a $20 million average annual value, $25 million signing bonus, $43.7 million guaranteed at signing, and $71.2 million in practical guarantees.
Ward still has one year remaining on his rookie contract, plus the fifth-year option, which means he’s set to earn around $22.7 million total for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. It seems unlikely that he’ll top Ramsey’s deal, but he could come in somewhere in the range of players like Marlon Humphrey and Tre’Davious White — other top corners who have recently signed extensions — and average $17-19 million per year. Cornerback contract extensions have tended to be for four or five years, so Ward could be seeking something like $80-100 million in new money, depending on how long his deal runs.