Denzel Ward is keeping his roots planted in Northeast Ohio for the long haul.
The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback and Macedonia native signed a five-year contract extension Wednesday with the Browns that will run through the 2027 season.
"Excited and blessed to play for my hometown team," Ward said. "I want to thank the Browns organization, the Haslams and Johnson family, Andrew Berry, Coach Kevin Stefanski and the rest of the Browns organization for continuing to believe in the homegrown kid and allowing me to represent this organization."
The fourth overall pick of the 2018 draft, Ward has delivered a steady helping of shut-down coverage and big plays against some of the best receivers in the league ever since his unforgettable, two-interception NFL debut. He's compiled 10 career interceptions, 50 pass breakups and 186 career tackles across four seasons.
Ward is tied for fourth in franchise history in pass breakups and is seventh in the league in that category since his rookie season, when his talents were evident from Week 1. Ward snagged his first two interceptions against the Steelers in his first career game and has maintained his status as a pesky defender capable of battling any receiver in the league throughout his 52 career games. He's also tied for first in the league with six games of three or more pass breakups since 2018.
His biggest moments also include two pick-six plays — one 61-yard score in Week 14 of 2019 against the Bengals and a 99-yard touchdown also scored against Cincinnati in Week 9 of 2021, a play that stood as the longest touchdown in the entire NFL that season.
Four-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowl CB Denzel Ward signed a contract extension Tuesday that will keep him in Cleveland through 2027.
"Denzel Ward has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL since his rookie season in 2018," Browns EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew 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. 'Homegrown' takes a deeper meaning with Denzel since he has spent his entire life both living in and giving back to Ohio communities. We look forward to seeing Denzel continue his bright career and philanthropic initiatives in Cleveland for many years to come."
Ward further solidified himself as one of Cleveland's top defensive playmakers in 2021. With three interceptions, a team-high 10 pass breakups and a handful of other big plays that helped the defense find an extra gear in the second half of the season, Ward was once again one of the Browns' most valuable defenders. He was the only player in the NFL last season to have three or more pass breakups in three games.
Ward, 24, has yet to hit his peak, and the Browns will be the beneficiaries of all the highlights he continues to collect for the next six years.
"I'm really excited for Denzel and his family," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "It's a well-deserved reward for his outstanding play on the field and work in our community. Denzel has the attitude that he is committed to constantly getting better as a player. We know he's going to continue to work with our coaching staff to improve and we are very happy that he will continue to be an important part of our defense for many years to come."
In addition to his work on the field, Ward is a dedicated servant in the Northeast Ohio community and constantly gives back to his hometown. His "Make Them Know Your Name" Foundation, dedicated to his father who passed away in 2016 due to cardiac arrest, has taken numerous steps to raise heart health education, prevention and treatment. The foundation also covered monthly expenses for 21 people who struggled to sustain small business or employment in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the country.
Ward was recognized for his work in the community and on the field when he was named the Browns' Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2021, one of the league's highest honors given to one player from each of the 32 teams.