WardCleveland Browns defensive back TJ Ward has been linked to trade rumors that have him moving to Chicago.

The other rumors surrounding him involve a franchise tag with his current team, and the prospect of signing a new deal to continue to help a young secondary become even better than it already is.

For Ward, and others like him, the multiple scenarios are all part of the game leading up to free agency. Ward, if he had his choice – and there are still many out there – appears to want to continue his time in Ohio.

Ward is only a small handful of free agents the Browns have to deal with in the offseason, but he and center Alex Mack, figure to garner a lot of attention should they make a move toward testing the market to see if they can get the maximum value for their talents.

And honestly, who could blame them?

In a story on profootballtalk.nbcsports.com, “According to Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com, the Browns have designs on trying to re-sign center Alex Mack and strong safety T.J. Ward. Mack and Ward each made the Pro Bowl in 2013. The 28-year-old Mack has started all 80 regular-season games for Cleveland, while the 27-year-old Ward has twice exceeded 100 tackles in four NFL seasons.”

It was also reported that both Mack and Ward fit the profile of players who could garner lucrative second NFL contracts. Both are in their primes, and both have been productive.

“The question now is whether either player receives the franchise tag from Cleveland.”

Mack has stated openly in several reports that he will give Cleveland consideration to match any offer made to him if he were to test the free agent market. Mack figures to be one of the more appealing offensive linemen out there.

The fact there are few free agents, added to the fact the team is in the middle of a transition (stop me if you have heard this before) and that management now has a new head coach in place (again, stop me if you have heard this before), now may be the time the Browns – loveable losers for years and still the darlings of the NFL and its fans, may be turning another corner of success (again, read comments in parenthesis).

The Browns must sign both players and then turn their attention to free agency where players of need will be on the market. The franchise needs a powerful runner (Ben Tate of Houston) depth on the offensive line (Travelle Wharton) and possibly make a trade for a quarterback (Kirk Cousins – so he  is reunited with Kyle Shanahan).

These two signings would be a stepping stone in the right direction.