Josh Sanchez
Monday March 10th, 2014

2014 NFL free agency rumors: Cleveland Browns serious about Donte Whitner Donte Whitner could return to his hometown Browns in free agency. (Daniel Gluskoter/Icon SMI)

The Cleveland Browns are expected to lose starting safety T.J. Ward when the NFL free agency period officially kicks off on Tuesday afternoon, so they have been discussing potential replacement options.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, one option that the team is "very serious about" is San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner.

Whitner, a native of Cleveland, would give the Browns a big-hitter in their secondary. He can also play in the box, minimizing the loss of Ward.

MORE: NFL free agency rumors | Potential FA busts | 2014 NFL free agency predictions

While Whitner is not one of the premium safeties on the market like a Ward or Jairus Byrd, he is a serviceable option with playoff experience and could emerge as a leader on the young Browns defense.

Whitner would also come cheaper than Ward or Byrd, so the move would make financial sense for the Browns.

The 28-year-old safety played his high school football at Glenville (Ohio), before going on to star at Ohio State. A return to his old stomping grounds could sway Whitner toward taking a true hometown discount. The New York Jets are also expected to be in the mix for Whitner's services.

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