Cleveland already spent big this offseason with the Deshaun Watson historic contract extension, a move that received league-wide criticism. With the franchise in win-now mode and committed to a young core of stars, Ward becomes the next player to land a huge deal.
- Denzel Ward stats (2021): 10 pass deflections, three interceptions in 15 games
Drafted with the fourth pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, many believed Ward had the talent to blossom into a Pro Bowl cornerback. He earned Pro Bowl honors as a rookie and received his second selection following a rebound 2021 season.
Before signing his extension, Ward was scheduled to carry a $13.294 million cap hit this season before hitting free agency in 2023. The new deal will likely reduce his 2022 cap hit, providing Cleveland with more money to add talent via free agency.
As for the franchise’s next move, the intention is to find a Baker Mayfield trade before the 2022 NFL Draft. If a deal doesn’t come to fruition, the Browns are prepared to keep their disgruntled quarterback until a suitable offer comes in.
Denzel Ward contract details
Days after the Miami Dolphins signed Xavien Howard to a massive contract extension, Cleveland rewards its homegrown cornerback with a record-setting deal that should reset the market for cornerbacks.
Previously, Jalen Ramsey was the highest paid corner in the NFL with a $100 million contract with $71.203 million guaranteed. While all the terms of Ward’s detail aren’t yet released, the five-year extension comes with more total guaranteed money ($71.25 million) and a higher total value ($100.5 million) than the deal Ramsey signed in 2020.
Cleveland’s 5-foot-11 defensive star rated as the 11th best cornerback in the NFL last season, per Pro Football Focus. He thrived in coverage, allowing just a 74.8 passer rating when targeted and surrendered just three touchdowns across 71 targets thrown his way.
Because of the contract extension, Cleveland will likely reduce Ward’s existing 2022 cap hit ($13.294 million) by spreading out his signing bonus over multiple years. The savings could prove crucial in the team’s efforts to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney and to add a receiver. Once the deal is officially signed, one of the top 2023 NFL free agents will be off the board.