NFL Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns Rumors: Donte Whitner Expected to Sign

Donte Whitner

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Although the NFL Free Agency period officially kicks off today at 4:00 p.m. EST, reports are indicating that San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner will be a member of the Cleveland Browns in 2014.

If the reports are true, the former Ohio State Buckeye would be returning home to Cleveland where he starred at Glenville high school. The two-time Pro Bowler will bring with him a Super Bowl appearance, punishing play and a sense of leadership which will be crucial in guiding the Browns’ young defense after the loss of middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson.

In 2013, Whitner’s ferocity on the field caused him to rack up fines for two hits early in the season. After paying the fines, Whitner vowed to change his name to “Hitner” but ultimately decided not to pursue the name change.

While Whitner will become an instant go-to guy in the locker room, his competitive attitude and toughness will provide direction to a young secondary that will be seeking to fill a gap. With Browns safety T.J. Ward — who is also a free agent — sparking interest from several NFL teams, the likelihood of Ward finding a home elsewhere is strong.

Whitner’s name isn’t the first to pop up in Browns’ free agency rumors. New Browns’ head coach Mike Pettine‘s former Buffalo Bill Jairus Byrd has been mentioned as a potential signee, but he is thought to be the premier free agent safety in 2014 and should draw a longer process.

Until the 4:00 p.m. start of free agency, NFL teams are only allowed to speak with agents and not with the actual players, so as with all reports coming from “sources,” there is no guarantee that Whitner will sign as a Brown this afternoon. However, the Browns’ urgency to build a competitor should enable them to fill the void at safety and bring Whitner back to his hometown.

The signing of Whitner to Cleveland would be a great addition to the organization and would help shape the type of environment Cleveland is seeking. The man almost known as “Hitner” can help build the Cleveland Browns into a winner after which he can drop the “h” and substitute an “n” for the “t” in “Whitner”.

After all, that’s what Cleveland fans really want.

Dan Williams writes for Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Wi11iams or add him to your network on Google.