The Browns' list of players who have received hefty contract extensions the last two years continued to grow Wednesday at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.
Denzel Ward added his name to the list. He walked through the hallways of the facility with a smile minutes after he signed a contract that will keep him in Cleveland through 2022, and the two-time Pro Bowler has earned every penny.
Ten career interceptions. 50 pass breakups. Two pick-sixes. One Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination.
That's enough for Ward to join Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Wyatt Teller, Joel Bitonio and Deshaun Watson as cornerstone players that have now locked in their futures in Cleveland for the foreseeable future. The nucleus of the Browns feels even more solidified with Ward now set to stay in Cleveland through 2027, and his extension is yet another example of Executive Vice President of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry fulfilling his goal of keeping the Browns' best players in Cleveland long-term.
"Denzel Ward has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL since his rookie season in 2018," Berry said. "Rarely do you find a player who has performed at such a high-level over a multi-year period at his age. This is a testament not only to Denzel's talent but also his work ethic, drive and intelligence."
Ward's extension was a matter of when, not if.
Ever since he was drafted with the fourth overall pick in 2018, he's done nothing but meet the expectations to become one of the Browns' best defenders and lead a secondary that Berry has aimed to turn into one of the best in the league. The additions of Greg Newsome II, Troy Hill, John Johnson III and Grant Delpit — all players who also required big investments from the front office — helped that become a reality last season when the Browns finished fifth in the league in passing yards allowed, but no player was more of a catalyst for the success than Ward.
He led the team with three interceptions, tied for the team lead with 10 pass breakups and won battles against the best receivers in big moments. Garrett, who broke the franchise single-season record with 16 sacks last season, was heralded as the team's most valuable player, but Ward certainly wasn't far behind as he provided the Browns with another season's worth of evidence that he needed to stay in Cleveland for the defense to maintain its success.
Berry didn't ignore it, nor did he overlook the other three seasons of stellar play from Ward. A Pro Bowl nomination his rookie year and 18 pass breakups in 2020 were some of the other cues that the Browns had to keep Ward, who grew up in Macedonia and has constantly given back to the community throughout his career in Northeast Ohio.
"'Homegrown' takes a deeper meaning with Denzel since he has spent his entire life both living in and giving back to Ohio communities," Berry said. "We look forward to seeing Denzel continue his bright career and philanthropic initiatives in Cleveland for many years to come."
It's been a busy offseason so far in Berea.
In addition to Ward's extension this offseason, the Browns have also committed a big investment to Watson, who was traded to Cleveland in a deal that included three first-round picks and then given a contract that runs through 2026. They also acquired four-time Pro Bowl WR Amari Cooper, whose contract can also extend through 2026. More big names could be added to the roster next week in the NFL Draft.
Those players are joining a roster that already had big names at nearly every position. Most of them had already been locked into big multi-year contracts, but not Ward.
That changed Wednesday.
He's joining the list, and the Browns will only be better because of it.