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Addressing Cleveland Browns' needs: Safety

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Will the Browns retain strong safety T.J. Ward?

This falls into the category of a need whose priority could dramatically climb if the Browns don't retain T.J. Ward, who is due to enter free agency next month.

If Ward leaves the team, then the Browns might very well have to consider addressing safety as early as the third round, if not higher.

Ward had the best of his four NFL seasons in 2013, and earned recognition as a Pro Bowl alternate and an All-Pro selection. His play did plenty to help stabilize an area where the Browns had to rely on an unproven second-year player, Tashaun Gipson, as their starter next to Ward.

With center Alex Mack also due to hit the free-agent market, the Browns could very well decide to focus their attention on signing him to a long-term deal and either allow Ward to become a free agent or give him a franchise tag that would give him a guaranteed one-year deal.

If Ward remains, the Browns could still consider addressing safety at some point in the draft. They selected Jamoris Slaughter from Notre Dame on the sixth round last year, released him, and placed him on their practice squad.

With the very real possibility that Ward departs the Browns, the team would then be looking at what shapes up as a reasonably solid draft for safeties.

Among the possibilities that could be available in the third or fourth rounds are Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois (he could be a late second-rounder), Deone Bucannon of Washington State, and Craig Loston of LSU.

>>This Road to the Draft segment is driven by Liberty Ford.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for "Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford" on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for "Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford"? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.

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