The aim of this study was to develop a fundamental understanding of the adsorption behavior of metal ions on cellulose surfaces using experimental techniques supported by computational modeling, taking Ag(I) as an example. Force interactions among three types of cellulose microspheres (native cellulose and its derivatives with sulfate and phosphate groups) and the silica surface in AgNO3 solution were studied with atomic force microscopy (AFM) using the colloidal probe technique. The adhesion force between phosphate cellulose microspheres (PCM) and the silica surface in the aqueous AgNO3 medium increased significantly with increasing pH while the adhesion force slightly decreased for sulfate cellulose microspheres (SCM), and no clear adhesion force was observed for native cellulose microspheres (CM). The stronger adhesion enhancement for the PCM system is mainly attributed to the electrostatic attraction between Ag(I) and the negative silica surface. The observed force trends were in good agreement with the measured zeta potentials. The scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and attenuated total reflectance-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) analyses confirmed the presence of silver on the surface of cellulose microspheres after adsorption. This study showed that PCM with a high content of phosphate groups exhibited a larger amount of adsorbed Ag(I) than CM and SCM and possible clustering of Ag(I) to nanoparticles. The presence of the phosphate group and a wavenumber shift of the P−OH vibration caused by the adsorption of silver ions on the phosphate groups were further confirmed with computational studies using density functional theory (DFT), which gives support to the above findings regarding the adsorption and clustering of Ag(I) on the cellulose surface decorated with phosphate groups as well as IR spectra.