Browns Sign Donte Whitner
The Browns lost T.J. Ward, but added the hard-hitting strong safety Donte Whitner on a four-year, $28 million contract. He’ll instantly help new head coach Mike Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil set the tone with a physical brand of football.
Whitner graded out as the sixth-best safety last season in San Francisco. He was outstanding in coverage (10.7) and solid in run support (3.9). Whitner prides himself on playing as an old-school safety and can deliver the knock-out blow over the middle. At one point he even considered changing his name to “Hitner,” which was a running joke as he racked up NFL fines.
Whitner is from Cleveland and is looking forward to coming home. Browns fans hope he can bring some much-needed leadership from the winning culture of San Francisco to their woeful franchise.
Cleveland’s secondary needs to improve in 2014 for the Browns to have any chance of turning things around. The Browns defense was 24th in the league last season in coverage.
Last year in San Francisco Whitner posted 62 tackles, 21 assists and 1 interception playing next to first round rookie Eric Reid, who had a nice season grading out as the 16th-best safety in the league. In Cleveland, Whitner’s partner in crime will be Tashaun Gipson, who came in at 68th.
This isn’t evident in IDP leagues. Gipson was actually the 15th-best defensive back last season. Reid came in at 32 and Whitner at 38.
Of course in fantasy football and especially when looking at defensive backs, the previous year isn’t indicative of future production. Whitner will have an opportunity to put up bigger numbers in Cleveland where he’ll be playing with a front seven that’s not nearly as talented as the 49ers group. Last season T.J. Ward was the fourth-best defensive back, playing strong safety with Gipson at free.
The fact that the Browns offense has a hard time gaining first downs also helps the safeties rack up statistics. Whitner is the type of player who can put up big numbers. In 2010 he made a whopping 95 solo tackles and 44 assists. Whitner’s dynasty IDP owners should be celebrating his move to Cleveland and for redraft owners he should definitely be moving up your draft board.
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Nate Hodges is a lead writer for PFF Fantasy and radio host for Tennessee Sports Radio (Saturdays at noon eastern). Listen at TNsportsradio.com. His work can also be found at TopTierFootball.com. You can follow him on Twitter – @NateNFL