The Buccaneers will sign the newly-released T.J. Ward, as James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. It’s a one-year, $4MM deal that includes a maximum value of $5MM, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link).
Ward started 41 games over three seasons in Denver after inking a four-year deal with the club prior to the 2014 season. Last season, he made 14 appearances, totaling one interception and one sack while ranking as the NFL’s No. 48 safety, per Pro Football Focus. Ward’s 75.9 grade was the worst mark of his career, and the Broncos felt it was better to move on and get a little salary cap relief in the process.
Per Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link), Ward drew interest from seven teams and had serious talks with three. According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the Steelers had some degree of interest, but they were not serious contenders for his services.
Tampa Bay has already done a fair amount of tinkering at the safety position this offseason. The Bucs re-signed Chris Conte, signed free agent J.J. Wilcox from the Cowboys, and drafted Justin Evans in the second round. But signing Ward will help solidify the defensive backfield, and as Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times writes, Ward will push either Conte or Keith Tandy to the bench, and Wilcox and Evans will see their potential playing time take a hit as a result.
John Spytek, the Bucs’ director of player personnel and GM Jason Licht‘s right-hand man, was Cleveland’s director of college scouting when the Browns drafted Ward in 2010, and he spent two years as a scout with the Broncos when Ward played in Denver. That connection almost certainly played a role in Ward’s decision, along with the fact that Tampa Bay is a potential playoff team.
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