As the saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.”
Ward can thank Miami cornerback Xavien Howard for strengthening his position.
And Andrew Berry can look at his Dolphins counterpart like GMs trying to sign quarterbacks look at Berry.
Breaking: Per source, CB Xavien Howard agrees to terms with the #Dolphins on a new 5-year contract worth $50,691,177 in new money, for a new money APY of $25,345,588.
Highest ever new money average by over $5M.
— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) April 1, 2022
Miami’s Chris Grier tore up Howard’s existing contract with 3 years and $39 million left to be paid.
Not only did Miami add over $50 million, but they also guaranteed the most money ever for an NFL cornerback.
At $18 million per year, Howard is not the highest-paid corner, coming in at #4 as per SpoTrac.
But even if Ward considers giving Berry a home team discount, the guaranteed cash ups the ante.
How Much Should Ward Cost?
Denzel Ward is one of the top man-coverage cornerbacks in the NFL.
Per PFF, he scores in the 96th percentile one-on-one since entering the league.
He improved his tackling the past two seasons and earned his second Pro Bowl nod in 2021.
Ward also played 15 games last year, after 3 straight seasons with just 12 starts.
Jalen Ramsey listed all the CB's he still watches on tape and it's an interesting list:
He said there was a few more but those were some of the guys off the top of his head.
— Sosa Kremenjas (@QBsMVP) February 9, 2022
Besides Howard’s big extension with Miami, the Rams signed free agent JC Jackson to a big contract.
Jackson won an $82 million deal ($16.5 million/year) with $40 million guaranteed at signing.
PFF ranks Ward well ahead of Jackson in their system and Berry needs to consider the intangibles of Ward’s Ohio background.
With all that in mind, it seems $18 million/year and 50% guaranteed is the bare minimum price for Ward.
Can The Browns Afford Ward?
Andrew Berry is as adept as anybody in manipulating salary caps and contract language.
But Deshaun Watson‘s cap hit of over $50 million per year starting in 2023 presents a new challenge.
Increased television revenue is expected to increase the cap, but Berry can’t rely on that until it happens.
With no first-round draft picks until 2025, Cleveland can’t count on finding cheap stars each year, either.
— SportzStew Ⓥ (@sportzstewcom) November 7, 2021
But as far as cornerbacks go, Cleveland can operate on the cheap for the most part.
Greg Newsome is on a rookie deal and AJ Green’s development provides another cheap role player.
That might allow Berry to lock up his best pass defender at a fair price.
Why It Might Not Happen
Andrew Berry’s favorite tool to lower salary cap hits is the signing bonus.
But that money will hit the cap eventually, rolled into future years to be dealt with.
Cleveland is starting to accumulate significant sums of dead money heading into the mid-2020s.
While teams like New Orleans keep rolling deferred cash forward, some GMs feel it is not a fiscally sound policy.
Ok, I can't get over this. Denzel Ward literally SLIDES underneath the block to blow up the WR screen pic.twitter.com/VeqnLuZ23u
— Jordan Zirm (@JordanZirm) October 26, 2020
Ultimately, the success of Denzel Ward’s teammates could lead Berry to roll the dice on replacing Ward.
Greedy Williams and Greg Newsome could be a top pair of corners with AJ Green backing them up.
Berry could put off Ward’s extension until he sees how the other players fare in 2022.
And the decision might be to re-sign the others for less money than he would spend on one Pro Bowler.