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Is it smart to cut/trade an integral part of the No Fly Zone?

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Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro discuss with Chad Brown the impact of getting rid of safety T.J. Ward.

Super Bowl 50 - Carolina Panthers v Denver Broncos Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Rumors that the Broncos may be initiating - or just entertaining - trade options for safety T.J. Ward have gotten sports reporters in a tizzy trying to determine 1) if the Broncos would indeed want to get rid of a key member of its No Fly Zone; and 2) what might be the impact on the locker room if they did.

Getting in on the conversation, Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro at The Afternoon Drive asked former three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Chad Brown if trading Ward a year before the 30-year-old safety’s contract expires is a “Belichickian” move.

Brown, who played a few seasons for Bill Belichick at the Patriots, agreed “that track record is clear.”

See: Richard Seymor, Lawyer Milloy, Randy Moss.

“Contractual situations come up, age comes up, and you make that move before it’s too late,” Brown noted. “I’d like to think the Broncos could find a suitor willing to trade at least some draft picks to get something out of this, but I’m not surprised by the thinking behind it or the possibility.”

From a pure business standpoint, the idea makes some sense - Cutting Ward’s $4.5 million contract would free up some cash, and the aging safety, who has been out with a hamstring injury this preseason so far, has several talented safeties coming up behind him to take his place admirably.

Add to that, Ward’s strength as an “8th-man-in-the-box type safety” is not utilized as often since the Broncos are in their nickel defense most of the time. Brown believes Broncos’ could actually get better cover skills by moving Darian Stewart over to strong safety and Justin Simmons in as free safety.

“They would miss something in the physical presence of T.J. but be better in coverage,” Brown said.

So then from a team unity/locker room standpoint, the question is whether getting rid of a defensive leader - a guy who has helped set the tone for the defense’s aggressiveness - make sense?

Deferred to the words of James Brown, the “godfather of soul,” the linebacker answered, “There ‘s the show, and then there’s the business.”

For Chad Brown, the business part makes sense and the show part will adapt.

“The No Fly Zone is a great football [show,] but there is a business of football and when you have young quality safeties behind you who make a quarter of what you make, then the team is going to try to find a way to get those guys on the field and get you out of there.”

Brown also believes Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib, Darian Stewart and Bradley Roby would miss having their teammate but would ultimately get back to doing their “business” of getting ready for the L.A. Chargers. And he sees no issue for coach Vance Joseph keeping the locker room together in the event of a trade or cut of Ward.

“He’s very confident in the make up of the locker room, his command over the team, and the respect from the team,” Brown added. “I don’t think he’s too worried about losing the locker room.”

My take:

Not that you all asked for it, but here you go: I like T.J. Ward. I initially took issue with him when he first came to Denver and got in a little trouble at a local bar, but I’ve since come to appreciate his commitment to football, to his family and to all the communities where he has played. And I’ve always liked his aggressive play and leadership among the secondary. He was brought in as a superstar to help the defense rise to prominence, and he has been an integral part in doing just that.

I get all the good business reasons to consider trading Ward or possibly cutting him so you don’t lose the impressive young guys on their way up.

I get that Talib and Harris Jr. and Stewart are professionals and understand the business of football and wouldn’t make it a locker room issue.

I get that he is older and has had some injury concerns.

But I still don’t like the idea of losing a big part of the soul of the defense just before the season starts. Cutting/trading Ward now, breaking up the “No Fly Zone” and also revealing that the coach had no idea what the front office was doing with his players (evidenced by Joseph saying today he would be surprised if that happened) all seem like a bad move for a team that’s going to have a lot of growing pains in just 10 days.

Team unity and leadership get underestimated too often in “business” decisions.

But, then, I’ve always liked “the team” aspect of the game a whole lot more than the business aspect, so there’s a reason I’m not the one they’re asking.