Donte Whitner has reached an agreement with the Cleveland Browns on a four-year, $28 million deal.
Adam Schefter of ESPN provided word of the free-agent signing on Tuesday:
Former 49ers S Donte Whitner reached agreement on a four-year, $28 million deal with the Browns, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2014
Whitner later tweeted about his move to the Browns:
O-H-.......— DonteHitner (@DonteWhitner) March 11, 2014
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network initially noted the deal was expected to check in around $28 million over four years:
When the #Browns reach a deal with Donte Whitner, I’m told it’s expected to be four years for an average of $7M per year.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2014
Whitner's deal comes on the heels of Cleveland's reported agreement with Karlos Dansby (via Kent Somers of AZCentral.com):
don't know if this has been out there since twitter broke. hearing Dansby to Browns, 4yrs/$24m. $10m year 1, $14m guaranteed.— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) March 11, 2014
Whitner spent the past three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers after a five-year stint with the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo drafted him with the eighth overall selection in the 2006 NFL draft. While he developed into a solid contributor, he didn't live up to the first-round hype.
He proceeded to earn two Pro Bowl nods during his three years in San Francisco. It was the type of performance, especially in 2013, that was seemingly going to make him one of the highest-ranked 2014 free agents by all media outlets.
That wasn't the case, however. Whitner took to Twitter after he discovered he was barely ranked inside the top 50 free agents by NFL.com. Clearly he didn't think the rankings were too accurate:
He was eventually moved up two spots, but it's doubtful the safety found that any more satisfying given his improvement during his stay with the 49ers.
Other outlets had a more positive view of Whitner. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 13 player available and the third-best safety behind Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward. It pointed toward his 2013 success as reason for the placement:
In 2012 the coverage of Whitner was arguably the weak link in the 49ers defense. Fast forward a year and the former first round pick has no such worries, really upping his game. It’s taken longer than you might think but he has become the player he was drafted to be.
It's a moot point now, of course. Whitner has latched on with a new team and can begin the process of proving himself once again. Perhaps he'll benefit from the added motivation of the low ranking, which clearly irked him if nothing else.
What do you think of the deal?
Looking ahead, he should remain an impact performer in Cleveland. The talented defensive back may not be the game-changing safety the Bills thought they were getting nearly a decade ago, but it's also no longer fair to judge Whitner on that scale after eight seasons in the league.
As long as he continues to make his presence felt by slowing down the opposing run game, he should provide good value. Furthermore, he should still be in the midst of his peak seasons at age 28, which lowers the risk involved with the signing.
It seems like a win-win situation.