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On eve of free agency, Browns reportedly eyeing Pro Bowl safeties Jairus Byrd, Donte Whitner

By Nate Ulrich Published: March 10, 2014

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On the eve of free agency, the Browns are hunting for a safety.

Unless the Browns can re-sign Pro Bowl strong safety T.J. Ward, one of their top missions will be to replace him. Ward, 27, is on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent when the market opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday, and the Browns are one of about a dozen teams reportedly interested in him.

Buffalo Bills three-time Pro Bowler Jairus Byrd and San Francisco 49ers two-time Pro Bowler Donte Whitner are among the top safeties the Browns seem poised to pursue.

The Browns, Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams are interested in signing Byrd, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported. Byrd, 27, spent last season with new Browns coach Mike Pettine, who served as the Bills’ defensive coordinator for one year. Byrd is seeking a long-term deal worth about $9 million a year, ESPN.com's James Walker reported.

The Browns, Chicago Bears and New York Jets have expressed the most interest in Whitner while the 49ers are still pushing to retain him, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch reported. Whitner, 28, is a Cleveland native and an Ohio State product.

"Based on a source close to Donte Whitner, he is likely headed to the Browns when the signing period begins," 92.3 The Fan's Dustin Fox tweeted today. Fox and Whitner were teammates at Ohio State.

Other free agency news

*The Browns are in the market for a starting guard, and one was eliminated as a potential candidate today when the San Diego Chargers re-signed Chad Rinehart, 28, to a two-year deal.

*The Browns are also in the market for a cornerback to start opposite Joe Haden. They had been linked to Green Bay Packers corner Sam Shields, 26, but he re-signed with the Packers this past weekend. He reportedly received a four-year deal worth $39 million, including a signing bonus of $12.5 million.

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