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T.J. Ward still has something to prove for the Broncos

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The No Fly Zone has received a ton of attention during the offseason, but this could be the most important season for Broncos Safety T.J. Ward. 

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Name: T.J. Ward
Position: SS
Height: 5’10” Weight: 200
Age: 30 Experience: 8th
College: Oregon

The roster reviews roll on with T.J. Ward. Let’s get the contract stuff out of the way. Ward is heading into the final year of his contract, and if there is no extension signed, he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Darian Stewart received an extension, and the Broncos drafted two safeties in the 2016 draft. Justin Simmons and Will Parks both saw playing time last season, and look like talented young players. These could be signals that there will be a shake up in the No Fly Zone after 2017.

Perhaps this situation could play to the Broncos advantage. There is an old cliche that players perform better in a contract year. If the cliche holds, the Broncos can expect Ward to step up and have a stellar season. At that point, the franchise will have some decisions to make regarding how much they want to spend on the secondary.

Stewart and Ward have been a formidable pair at the safety position for Denver. While Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib are the shutdown corners, Stewart and Ward are the hammers. Visions of Dennis Smith and Steve Atwater dance in the heads of many fans. They have been fun to watch, and 2017 should be no different.

Along with his contributions on the field, Ward makes an impact off the field, as well. The T.J. Ward Foundation makes a difference in the lives of underprivileged kids. His celebrity golf tournament on June 19th was the third tournament held by his foundation. He has become more than just a football player, and has made the effort to become an important member of the community.

Ward also hosts a free kids football camp in Denver. The camp is free to kids ages 9-14. He is a perfect example of a Denver Bronco that loves to give back to the community.

The Good:

Ward’s time in Denver has been in conjunction with one of the most formidable defenses in NFL history. He has been a major part of that. He is a key member of the No Fly Zone. He is solid around the line of scrimmage, and makes big hits all over the field. His abilities on the field, and his actions off the field make any Broncos fan proud.

The Bad:

It is hard to find any major flaws with Ward. He doesn’t get a lot of penalties, rarely misses tackles, and is not a liability against the run, or the pass. His glaring flaw in 2016 was his unnecessary roughness penalty on Julian Edelman during the week 15 matchup against the Patriots. It kept the drive alive for New England, and effectively ended any chances at a comeback for the Broncos. The timing was awful, and his frustrations clearly got the better of him.

The Quotable:

In an interview with Denver7, Ward expressed his desire to remain a Bronco.

“I would love to finish my career here. I'd like to see something get done. They have done that in the past with guys. I think I have proven myself. But if they think I need to show more, then I will just have to keep proving it to them.”

2017 will be an opportunity for Ward to show John Elway that he is essential to the Broncos success. If not, he will certainly be playing in another city in 2018.

Status:

Ward is a lock for the team. As a tough veteran, and one of the leaders of the defense, he is one of the most important players on the defense. His hard nosed style, and competitive drive make him an indispensable player, at least for 2017. Unfortunately, this is a business. Ward may find himself on the outside looking in. Not for lack of skill, but for lack of cap space. That would be too bad for the Broncos, and for the Denver community in general.