Saturday night it was reported that former Broncos safety T.J. Ward intended to sign with the Buccaneers. This after Ward being one of the big name cuts as teams look to trim their roster to 53. With this signing comes obvious talent, but we are all left to speculate the fit with the regular season right around the corner. If the Bucs intend to use him the way I believe they will, then this could be a match made in heaven.
First of all, he’ll be given a chance to win the strong safety job. It’s a deep position for the Bucs, but they’ll certainly give Ward the job if they feel he’s the best option. However, despite his track record (which includes a few Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring) he may not be the best man for that job. He will be turning 31 this year and has to adjust to a new defensive system. If Ward doesn’t crack the starting lineup, don’t worry, the Bucs might have another idea in mind for him until he gets up to speed.
T.J. Ward has had some serious production through his career pic.twitter.com/rW3ypgtcWE
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 3, 2017
Ward would make an excellent nickel linebacker. He excels as a tackler and as a blitzer, so bringing him down into the box on passing downs makes a lot of sense. On the difficult 3rd and medium situations, this is where I’d expect Ward to thrive. Taking the SAM linebacker off the field and replacing him with a safety will obviously improve the coverage; and when that safety can tackle and rush the passer like Ward, then the Bucs will lose very little in physicality with a linebacker off the field.
What I love most about this deal is that it’s a one year contract. This gives Tampa playoff experience in the secondary who should be ready for a playoff run late in the season. It also doesn’t take a lot of long term cap space. This will allow the Bucs to write big checks to star wide receiver Mike Evans and eventual franchise quarterback Jameis Winston. So if for any reason Ward doesn’t perform to the level that’s expected, there’s really no risk at all in this signing.