There's a new warden in town. And he means business.
The Broncos signed free agent safety T.J. Ward on the first day of free agency Tuesday to address their defensive backfield, and here's everything we know about the Broncos' newest signing:
- Terrell Ray Ward Jr. is a 27-year old, 5'10", 211 lb. strong safety from San Francisco, California.
- Ward played his high school football for a prep school, De La Salle High School in California. He played college football for the Oregon Ducks, where he earned his spot with a walk-on tryout. In his three seasons for the Ducks, Ward started 35 games, recording 190 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions, and 1 sack.
- The Cleveland Browns selected Ward in the second round, 38th overall in the 2010 NFL draft. Current Broncos director of pro personnel Tom Heckert was the GM in Cleveland when Ward was drafted.Ward immediately found a starting role in Cleveland, playing in all 16 games for them in 2010.
- Rookie season: Ward made a name for himself early in Cleveland, piling up 123 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble in his first NFL season.
- Despite missing 8 games in 2011 and 2 games in 2012, Ward recorded a total of 107 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 interception in those two seasons.
- Statistically, Ward is coming off of his best season in the NFL, with 112 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1.5 sacks, and 1 touchdown in the 2013 season. Ward was honored with a Pro Bowl selection in 2013, and was named a Second-Team All-Pro.
- The young, talented safety is best known for his hard-hitting style of play and physicality, but is an effective player in coverage and against the run. Ward was the highest rated safety against the run in 2013 according to ProFootballFocus.com (+8.1), and ranked 12th in pass coverage (+4.8).
- Unless there are more changes within the Broncos secondary, Ward will likely team up with Rahim Moore as the Broncos' starting safeties in 2014. Mike Adams has voiced his desire to return to the team, but he'd be a depth option at this point; Duke Ihenacho will fill-in on special teams and could occupy a rotational role in the defense next season.
- Broncos' strong safeties, Ihenacho and Adams, had a combined PFF grade of -8.5 in 2013; Ward's grade was recorded a grade of 14.5, the third-highest grade of all NFL safeties.
T.J Ward immediately upgrades the Broncos' secondary, and provides them with another dangerous playmaker on defense. In addition to that, he provides the Broncos with a truly elite safety, something they've been lacking since Brian Dawkins' retirement. Not only is he a phenomenal player, but the best part of the deal might be Ward's new contract, which is worth an average of just $5.5 million per season. Considering his former team paid $7.5 million annually to free agent safety Donte Whitner, the Broncos got an absolute steal with the acquisition of Ward. John Elway is quickly becoming known for his shrewd acquisitions in the free agent market, and this deal leaves plenty of wiggle room to further upgrade the team for 2014. I'm looking forward to what Elway does with the rest of that money, but for now, I'm ecstatic over the signing of a premier NFL safety.
Throw a shoutout to T.J. on Twitter at @BossWard43, and welcome Denver's new Ward-en, who's going to bring discipline, control, and ferocity to Denver's defensive backfield.