Greatest defensive backs in Cleveland Browns history: #15. T.J. Ward
Like the two players mentioned in the toughest omissions, T.J. Ward wasn’t with the team for very long, but the hard-hitting safety had some of the best seasons of his career while with the Browns. Coming out of Oregon in 2010, Ward was the No. 38 overall player chosen and started from day one for the Browns — and he quickly became a leader on the back-end of the defense.
The job wasn’t just handed to him in his first year though, as he had to beat out Mike Adams, who had started nine games at free safety the season prior. Ward was named the winner of that camp battle by their head coach at the time Eric Mangini and started alongside Abram Elam, who was manning the strong safety position.
As a rookie, Ward had 108 tackles and two interceptions and was credited with 10 pass break-ups. He then moved to strong safety following Elam’s departure and continued to play well. In his four seasons with his original franchise, Ward had 325 tackles, five interceptions, 22 pass defenses and five forced fumbles.
He left in the 2014 offseason when the Denver Broncos gave him a four-year deal worth $23 million. He ended up making another Pro Bowl with Denver and was also part of their Super Bowl 50 victory over the Carolina Panthers. That was a good move for him, but had the Browns been able to convince him to stay, he would have moved higher up on this list.